Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, online home learning is in high demand for parents who have been trying to adapt to the challenges of their children being home schooled for 2 months and are now unlikely to go back to school until September.
Yet, concerns have been raised about the online safety of children during the COVID-19 lockdown. Legally, if someone wants to work in a school, criminal checks and DBS verification is compulsory. But, incredibly, the private tuition space has no DBS regulation at all. It is left completely up to a parent to find out if a tutor is acceptable without any resources to help them make the best decision.
Many private tutors, who may also be school teachers, have a DBS check, however, many do not, and can openly work with kids in a private setting. This loophole must be closed as it’s risking the online safety of children. The government have, in effect, failed to regulate the safety of our children.
Europol has called the increased online activity by “those seeking child sexual abuse material” the “most worrying” aspect of the coronavirus pandemic’s affect on crime in Europe.
Europol’s executive director Catherine De Bolle on Monday (18 May) warned MEPs that children could be more exposed as they can use less secure online educational applications.
Tanvir Malik Mukhtar, director of Scholar Hub, an online live tutoring initiative that has over 3,000 fully vetted tutors said, “as a result of the lack of government regulation to protect the learning safety of our children, I started working on designing an online only tuition platform called Scholar Hub, allowing parents an informed choice of tutors. I wanted all educators of children under 16 to be either DBS checked or have enhanced, digital background verification checks as a strict policy.”
However, many parents still rely on finding a local teacher for academic, musical or sports tuition – and there is no legal requirement on the thousands of self-employed private tutors in the UK to undergo a criminal record check which would reveal details of any child sex offences. This is in stark contrast to jobs such as accountants, vets and even traffic wardens, whose work does not directly involve children.
According to the Office for National Statistics, last year, the police in England and Wales recorded 73,260 sexual offences where the victims were identified as children. This is a rise of 15% on the previous year. Sexual abuse has also become the most common type of abuse counselled by Childline in recent years and the most commonly reported type of abuse by adults calling the National Association for People Abused in Childhood’ helpline in the year ending March 2019.
This is why it is imperative that child tutoring is immediately regulated by the government and a loophole, that could leave thousands of children at risk of harm, is closed. It should be compulsory that anyone who teaches a child and has regular one-on-one lessons with that child must be background checked by law. This requirement has now come into sharp focus due to the entire nation of our schoolchildren currently studying at home.
The Government must regulate this space to ensure criminal checks on all tutors immediately as it is in the national interest for child safety – especially during the Coronavirus crisis lockdown that has forced millions of children to learn online.