It might be helpful to explain in detail the terms of having instrumental lessons; the fees for tuition are based on 11 lessons per term. Some schools state that they only guarantee 10 of those lessons, but I always aim for 11. As the three terms are of different lengths it is most usual for some of the Spring term lessons to be given at the end of the Autumn or start of the Summer term.
There are 39 weeks in the school year; therefore at least 6 weeks will not have lessons. It is rare to teach in the first week of term as I usually attend training sessions at this time. I may be ill or need to take my own children to a hospital appointment, and I also have other duties as part of my job which mean I may need to visit other teachers or attend meetings or concerts at a time when I may usually be teaching your child. This is not a missed or cancelled lesson and does not count towards the total of 33.
If your child is ill or unavailable due to a school trip, sports fixture, doing a test in class or other activity they can’t miss, or because the school is closed for emergency reasons, or the school cancels the lesson for any other reason, then they forfeit the lesson and it does count towards the 33 lessons.
However, we are asked that if we receive a month’s notice we try to rearrange. We are not obliged to, but are asked to try. I usually rearrange for school trips with enough notice, and often manage to rearrange for other activities, even though the complicated timetable working out often takes longer than the time I would have spent teaching! Sometimes if there has been a snow day or similar I may give an extra session at the end of the year, perhaps as a group session to practise for a concert, and perhaps also coming to the concert itself, accompanying, etc. I am entitled to claim for the missed lesson and not obliged to make it up, but I often do in some way. The easiest way to keep track of your child’s lessons is to see the lesson numbers in the practice book – as long as they bring the book regularly it will be clear which lesson number we are on.
If I am absent due to illness you do not lose a lesson, but if I am not able to make it up to 33 lessons by the end of the school year you will receive a refund or credit.
I used to count a grade exam as a lesson if I was accompanying on the piano. Accompanists usually charge £20-25 to accompany grades up to 5. I find it is cheaper now if I accompany that I charge £10 – we have a warm up and run through immediately before going in to the exam. However, if parents wish to play for their child instead, that’s fine. The exam fee you pay all goes to the Associated Board, not to me.
It is worth knowing that if your child is too ill to take an exam the Board MAY at their discretion refund 60% only of the fee paid IF they receive a doctor’s letter. In practice I’ve only managed to get this partial refund twice – for a broken arm and for swine flu.
If we are well ahead with lessons by the middle of June I may halve the lesson time or postpone lessons so that we don’t run out too far before an exam.
If you wish to discontinue lessons the county music service requires the school to give them half a term’s notice. The county debits the school directly from their budget. In all my schools this written letter of notice should go to the school office, not to me or to the music teacher, class teacher or any other. The school will show the letter to me or put a copy in my register. On the rare occasions when a pupil gives notice, about half continue to have their paid lessons, and half decide to stop straight away and pay the half term’s fees in lieu of notice – this is entirely up to you and I don’t mind either way, although I would just give a bit of advice – which is that those who continue to take the lessons often find that the child changes their mind and does actually want to continue!