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ABRSM Safeguarding Policy, Procedure and Code of Practice

NSPCC logoThese child protection policy and procedure materials were drawn up specifically for ABRSM with the assistance and advice of the NSPCC and conform to current child protection legislation and guidance. The NSPCC cannot accept responsibility for the implementation and application of the procedures.

Please note that ABRSM examiners are required to obtain an enhanced DBS with barred list check on appointment and this is normally renewed every three years.

In accordance with the DBS Code of Practice, examiners will not present their DBS certificates for inspection but they will carry ABRSM photo ID.

The ABRSM Safeguarding Policy, Procedure and Code of Practice is comprised of the following sections. Should you require a specific section of the policy, please use the titles provided below for ease of navigation.

Policy statement

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) is a charitable company established by four Royal Schools of Music for the benefit of music education. Its core activity is the operation of an authoritative and internationally recognised exam and assessment system to encourage and motivate players and singers at all levels through the provision of goals and the measurement of progress.

ABRSM acknowledges it has a responsibility for the safety of children undertaking its exams or otherwise under its temporary care. It also recognises that good safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures are of benefit to everyone involved with ABRSM’s work, including staff, as they can help protect them from erroneous or malicious allegations.

The following principles underpin ABRSM’s approach to safeguarding and child protection:

  • The welfare of the child is paramount
  • All children regardless of age, disability, sex, racial heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation or identity have the right to equal protection from all types of harm or abuse
  • Working in partnership with children, their parents, carers and other agencies is essential in promoting children’s welfare.

A child is defined in law as a person up to the age of 18 years. Therefore the term ‘child’ is used throughout this policy and procedure and this includes young people.

If working overseas, our staff, representatives and examiners may find the national law in the country in which they are working may have a different age at which a child is considered an adult, or have a different age at which a child can give consent or is responsible. However, ABRSM, wherever it operates, abides by the definition of a child according to UK and international law. This comes from the Children Act, 1989 and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. The United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child is the international framework which sets out the specific rights of children.

This policy should be used in conjunction with the LSCB (Local Safeguarding Children Board) and Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures which apply in the area or country in which the exam or assessment is held.

For the purposes of this policy, ABRSM’s workforce includes everybody who works in a paid or voluntary capacity for or on behalf of the organisation in the UK and abroad. This includes, but is not limited to, employees, examiners, Honorary Local Representatives (HLRs), International Representatives, stewards, invigilators and consultants.

The policy also informs ABRSM’s work with vulnerable adults as acknowledged in clause 13 of the policy.

Purpose of policy and procedure

The purpose of this document is:

  1. To ensure all ABRSM’s workforce are clear about how to identify and respond to safeguarding concerns about children, especially those that are of a child protection nature.
  2. To ensure all ABRSM’s workforce have a clear understanding of the principles and practice involved in the safeguarding and protection of children.
  3. To ensure all ABRSM’s workforce understand the importance of prevention in responding proactively and efficiently to all concerns.
  4. To provide information for children participating in ABRSM events on the responsibilities of, and approach taken by, ABRSM in the protection of children.
  5. To ensure participating groups, children and staff understand that if abuse is disclosed this information cannot remain confidential and that ABRSM will report it to the appropriate authority.
  6. To ensure all current and potential members of the ABRSM workforce are clear that ABRSM will not engage workers who have allegations relating to child safeguarding and abuse made against them.

It is ABRSM’s policy that:

  1. Everyone working on behalf of ABRSM accepts that the welfare of children who come into contact with ABRSM in connection with its tasks and functions is paramount, and that they will report any concerns about a child or somebody else’s behaviour using the procedures laid down.
  2. Its governance of Safeguarding is robust and transparent with accountability to its Governing Body and with its Chief Executive as Chair of its internal Safeguarding Committee. The Governance Structure is regularly reviewed and is outlined in Part 6 of this policy and Appendix H.
  3. There is a Designated Safeguarding Person (DSP) within ABRSM who will take action following any expression of concern and the lines of responsibility in respect of child protection are clear.
  4. The DSP knows how to make appropriate referrals to statutory child protection agencies.
  5. All those who are involved with children on behalf of ABRSM must adhere to the Code of Practice (in Part 3 of this policy and procedure).
  6. ABRSM has the following policies for its workforce which underpin our safeguarding policy:

    • Examiner Code of Conduct
    • Guidance for Stewards and Invigilators
    • Working with Children and Young People Policy and Procedure
    • Whistleblowers Policy
    • Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure
    • Recruitment and Selection Policy and Procedure
    • Social Media Policy and Procedure
  7. Information relating to any allegation or disclosure will be clearly recorded as soon as possible and there is a procedure setting out who should record information and the time-scales for passing it on.
  8. The Children Act 1989 states that the ‘welfare of the child is paramount’. This means that considerations of confidentiality which might apply to other situations should not be allowed to over-ride the right of children to be protected from harm. However, every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned when an allegation has been made and is being investigated.
  9. ABRSM’s position on duty of care to children will be referred to or included in recruitment, training, moderation and policy materials where appropriate, and the policies are openly and widely available and actively promoted within the organisation.
  10. A culture of mutual respect between children and those who represent ABRSM in all its activities will be encouraged, with adults modelling good practice in this context.
  11. Anyone with access to children will be evaluated as to whether they involve ‘regulated activity’ or not and vetted appropriately for such roles.
  12. It is part of ABRSM’s acceptance of its responsibility of duty of care towards children that anybody who encounters child protection concerns in the context of their work on behalf of ABRSM will be supported when they report their concerns in good faith.
  13. ABRSM examines candidates with a variety of needs and always endeavours to make its exams accessible to all candidates. ABRSM publishes separate guidelines covering provisions for blind and partially sighted candidates, deaf and hearing-impaired candidates, candidates with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, candidates with autistic spectrum disorders (including Asperger syndrome) and candidates with other specific needs. Where ABRSM’s guidelines are not applicable, or a candidate has particular physical access needs, each case is considered on an individual basis. For more information and guidance, please refer to
  14. ABRSM acknowledges that some of its candidates may be vulnerable adults with wide ranging needs, including requiring a third party to be present during the assessment. Each case is considered on an individual basis. For further information, please contact ABRSM’s Designated Safeguarding Person.

Defining child protection and safeguarding

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined1 as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best life chances

Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare and refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

In terms of protecting those children where concerns or risks have been identified we expect our workforce to adhere to ABRSM policies, procedures and practices that:

  • Take all suspicions and/or allegations of abuse or risk to children seriously, and respond swiftly and appropriately through the provision of child protection procedures
  • Support the timely sharing of information, with relevant authorities, when there are concerns about a child’s welfare
  • Contribute to effective partnership working between all those involved in providing services for children

In terms of safeguarding children ABRSM expects, without exception, adherence to the principles and practices as outlined above.

Any concerns you might have may not always be of the same nature and may not require the same course of action. In practical terms, concerns are likely to arise in a number of ways:

  • Day to day concerns: these are concerns that will arise as part of the child’s day to day activities at an exam or assessment and are not concerns to do with safeguarding or child protection, e.g. anxiety about a performance. On the whole such concerns will be dealt with immediately as part of your relationship and engagement with that child.
  • Safeguarding concerns: these concerns will go beyond those that are dealt with as above and will usually indicate a concern about a child’s vulnerability, where it is felt that vulnerability needs further assessment and possible action, e.g. a child not eating or being withdrawn.
  • Child protection concerns: these will arise when a member of ABRSM’s workforce is worried or has evidence that a child has been harmed or is likely to be harmed or where a child makes a disclosure.

Everyone has a responsibility to ensure concerns about children, no matter how unclear, are passed on and assessed. ABRSM’s workforce should not undertake any investigations. The responsibility of ABRSM workforce is to be vigilant, record and report only.

Definitions of abuse: Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. They may be abused by an adult or adults or another child or children. Males and females can be involved in the abuse of children. There are four types of abuse (physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse).

See Appendix A for detailed definitions of abuse and Appendix D for potential indicators of abuse or neglect.

1England - Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard & promote the welfare of children, HM Government, March 2015

Wales - Safeguarding Children - Working Together Under the Children Act 2004, Welsh Assembly Government, 2006

Scotland – National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2010, Scottish Government, 2014

Code of practice

ABRSM expects its entire workforce to be aware of this Code of Practice and adhere to its principles of good practice in their approach to all children. Your attention is drawn to the position of trust you hold in working with children and the power and influence you hold. ABRSM expects this responsibility to be at the forefront of the minds of all its workforce to ensure that these positions of trust are never abused.

  1. The exam process should be as open as possible and it is important that no more time should be spent alone with children than is necessary to conduct the exam.
  2. Value and respect children as individuals.
  3. It is important not to have physical contact with children and this should be avoided.
  4. It is not good practice to take children alone in a car on journeys, however short.
  5. Do not make suggestive or inappropriate remarks to or about a child, even in fun, as this could be misinterpreted.
  6. It is important not to deter children from making a ‘disclosure’ of abuse through fear of not being believed and to listen to what they have to say. Guidance on handling a disclosure is set out in Appendix C. If this gives rise to a child protection concern it is important to follow ABRSM’s procedure for reporting such concerns, and not to attempt to investigate the concern yourself.
  7. Remember that those who abuse children can be of any age (even other children), gender, ethnic background or class and it is important not to allow personal preconceptions about people to prevent appropriate action taking place.
  8. Good practice includes valuing and respecting children as individuals and the adult modelling of appropriate conduct - which will always exclude bullying, shouting, racism, sectarianism or sexism.

In their dealings with children who they encounter in the course of ABRSM exams or other activities, ABRSM’s workforce must not:

  1. Have, or be perceived to have, favourites.
  2. Take children to your home unless this is for an exam arranged by ABRSM where all appropriate steps to safeguard the child have been taken and are observed at all times.
  3. Use physical punishments or any action that involves locking up or restraining a child.
  4. Arrange meetings outside working hours.
  5. Develop social relationships with children that participate in ABRSM events. If you come into contact with a participant in a social setting, try and move away, if this is not possible try and maintain a professional distance. Pay attention to your own behaviour in such a setting.
  6. Have contact with children through social media, e.g. Facebook or Twitter.
  7. Partake in any form of sexual activity with a child including grooming (i.e. befriending a child for the purpose of a future sexual relationship and this includes children aged 16 years and over). This is not permitted and represents a breach of ABRSM’s Code of Practice. If such behaviour is suspected or alleged it will be dealt with under Part 5 of this document.



Procedure: what to do if you are concerned about a child's welfare

There are essentially four key steps to remember and this procedure explains them. They are referred to as the 4 Rs:

  1. Recognising abuse or neglect
  2. Responding to the concerns
  3. Referring concerns on
  4. Recording any actions taken and outcomes.

Members of ABRSM’s workforce could have their suspicion or concern raised in a number of ways, the most likely of which are:

  • The conduct of a member of ABRSM’s workforce
  • A child ‘disclosing’ abuse
  • Bruising or evidence of physical hurt which may or may not be accompanied by
  • Unusual behaviour by a child

If anyone has such concerns they should be reported to the Designated Safeguarding Person (DSP) using the form as set out in Appendix E as a part of the process flowchart. If anyone identifies safeguarding concerns in a venue such as a school, then these concerns should be reported to the designated safeguarding lead in the school.

Concerns about a specific child should be reported immediately by telephone to the DSP and confirmed in writing within 24 hours using the form at Appendix E. Delay could prejudice the welfare of a child. In an emergency call 999 or the local equivalent.

If the concerns relate to the conduct of a member of the workforce these should be reported by phone to the DSP immediately. Steps will be taken to fully support anyone who in good faith reports his or her concerns about a colleague and every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality for all parties whilst the allegation is considered.

Concerns in relation to the conduct of a member of the workforce may indicate unsuitability to continue working with children in their present position, or in any capacity. Consideration will need to be given to whether:

  • Someone has behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
  • Someone has possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
  • Someone has behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children

There may be up to three strands in the consideration of an allegation against a member of ABRSM’s workforce:

  • A police investigation of a possible criminal offence
  • Enquiries and assessment by children’s social care about whether a child is in need of protection or in need of services
  • Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action in respect of the individual

The DSP will consider the report and either refer this immediately to the authorities or, after taking appropriate advice (which may include discussing the circumstances on a confidential basis with the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000), decide not to refer the concerns to the authorities but keep a full record of the concerns.

Action staff must take (within the same working day) when a concern arises:

Report the concern immediately to the DSP. S/he will then determine the next steps to take, including consultation with other professional agencies e.g. the NSPCC helpline, in order to determine the best course of action. Consideration will need to be given as to whether the concern involves an immediate risk of significant harm, a clear allegation of abuse by the child, or does not involve an immediate risk of significant harm.

It is not the responsibility of ABRSM staff to determine if abuse has taken place, rather, they are responsible for reporting on their concerns to the appropriate authorities.

Concerns that are anonymous or that relate to historical concerns (e.g. relating to previous staff, or an incident that happened some time ago) should not be ignored and must be reported to the DSP.

A record must be kept of the concern. Use the safeguarding concerns report form for this purpose (see Appendix E). The form can be completed by the person reporting the concern or the DSP.

Remember, do not delay reporting the matter by trying to obtain more information. Under no circumstances should you examine the child where s/he is alleging injuries. This is a role for medical personnel only.

If you are worried about sharing your concerns about possible abuse within the organisation you should contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 which operates a 24 hour helpline service. If you are reporting concerns about a child outside of the UK, you should report your concerns to the local authority in the country that you are based in, and also inform the DSP and follow the ABRSM policy and procedure. The DSP should contact the NSPCC Helpline, who will also be able to take the information and pass this on to the appropriate authorities.

Responding appropriately to a child sharing his/her concerns (