Blackburn dance teacher writes guidelines to protect East Lancashire performers

Lancashire Telegraph: Blackburn dance teacher writes guidelines to protect East Lancashire performers Blackburn dance teacher writes guidelines to protect East Lancashire performers

HOW much do you know about your child’s dance teacher? That’s the question being asked by dance professional Graham Vernon who has written NSPCC-endorsed guidelines to protect children from rogue teachers.

Graham, 40, owner of the DAPA performing arts centre in Blackburn, says anyone can set up a dance school and many self-appointed teachers are not qualified or insured.

Says Graham: “There is no legal requirement for a person who teaches a child, dance, drama, singing or even music to be qualified, and recent evidence has shown that more and more people are taking up this occupation to try and earn a fast buck.”

TV dancing shows have sparked a boom in the industry and Graham is concerned that there could be dance teachers who do not hold a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau certificate) or new DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service check).

In 2010 self-appointed dance teacher Edwin Dillon from Clitheroe was jailed for sexual activity with five of his under-age pupils.

In February this year, Natasha Jones, from Euxton, was ordered to pay parents compensation after pleading guilty to forging dance certificates from prestigious dance establishments at her un-registered Ballet Academy in Clayton-le-woods.

Says Graham, who lives in Samlesbury: “There are lots of non-registered and unqualified people teaching our children and some of them are fantastic at their job, they have just never bothered to become qualified.

“We can never legislate for harm coming to children but as grown-ups we can help to prevent them being harmed.”

Graham, who set up the DAPA centre with his wife 15 years ago, has worked with the NSPCC to create working guidelines for teachers, and the Department of Education Safeguarding team to help create the new Children in Performance Legislation.

He says: “Having been through the care system as a child, I know the dangers children can face, which makes me mad when parents do not do something as simple as checking who is teaching their child.

“They would never take their beloved pet to a non-qualified vet or their car to a non-qualified mechanic.”

His advice is to start by researching the person, talk to other parents or friends or contact the professional dance-awarding organisation.

Two forms of qualification are generally recognised in the UK for dance teaching – a degree (or higher) award made by a registered university along with a Certificate of Education or Post Graduate Certificate of Education.

Or, a professional qualification and annual registration to one of the teaching organisations, allowing the holder to organise and hold weekly classes outside of a normal education establishment.

The annual registration is to maintain professional development and confirm that they are an ongoing member of an awarding organisation.

Graham Vernon says parents should ask dance teachers these questions:

Can I stay with my child?
“No qualified teacher should stop any parent or guardian from staying with their child, part of the Child Protection and Vulnerable Persons Act legislation states that any activity should be done in an open environment and not behind closed doors.”

Is the venue a permanent establishment or is the teacher just hiring facilities?
“Lots of well-established professional teachers hire facilities and it is the responsibility of the venue to check that anyone hiring their premises has adequate insurance and is qualified to do so. However, lots of venues are maintained by volunteers and are not made aware of their ‘duty of care’

Have I chosen these classes because they are the cheapest?
“If the teacher is not qualified and therefore not paying an annual membership to a professional organisation or for adequate insurance their overheads will be cheaper and therefore can offer classes at a discount price.”

Does the school offer examinations?
“This is not a fool proof test as several organisations are now offering their examination services to non-qualified teachers. However, if the school or teacher organises regular sessions where an external examiner comes to the centre and the children receive a certificate and/or award with an official awarding organisation then this is a very good indication that the teacher is probably an annually-registered professional.

“These rules are by no means fool-proof and if you are ever unsure ask to see the teachers’ certificate and or annual membership card or contact their professional organisation who will always say if a person is a registered professional.”

More information from the Council for Dance Education and Training www.cdet.org. uk; phone 0207 240 5703.

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