A good friend, a mum, who is completely non-musical, asked me this, and I don't know the answer. Her child started piano lessons quite a while ago, but recently came back from lesson with a demand for an exam payment. The child had already been entered for the exam, so it's rather a fait accompli, but mum says that teacher hadn't mentioned exams prior to the arrival of this bill. She's decidedly miffed, but feels very insecure because she never had music lessons herself, and doesn't know what's "normal"? I could only say that doing exams is often regarded as "normal" (though far from obligatory) and from what I can see, many parents are very pushy that their children should take exams, so it's possible the teacher assumed parent would want this. She should, however, talk to teacher about it, because it may be a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, I'm very surprised the teacher entered the child without first checking with the parent - it's both impolite and rather bad business to throw sudden costs at people. What do most teachers do? Puzzled!
paying for exams - is this normal?
Posted 04 March 2017 - 11:44
Teacher should definitely consult with the parent first, and inform them of the fee and the potential date.
However, surely the child must have been working from an exam book already? So the parent must have had some inkling that there would eventually be an exam?
I have to confess I have been guilty on one occasion of not consulting enough - when I inherited this student, she had already taken LCM steps 1 and 2 and grade 1, and I knew her mother was keen for her to get grade 2, as indeed was the child. I normally send home lesson notes saying what we have done, what should be practised - sending them by email so that they typically arrive not more than a day later. And also the child was quite mature and I possibly assumed she had discussed this at home. The first sign of disquiet I heard about this was when I said she had a lot of work to do, as she had not practised enough (her history was of distinction every time, and she eventually finished up just a couple of marks short of a distinction). The mother claimed that I had not told them, or possibly asked them if I should enter her, though my lesson notes make it quite clear. I do think they were a bit miffed at not getting another distinction, since the vibes I got seemed to suggest that they reckoned they had paid for one!
It did teach me not to assume because the child knew all about it and I had written notes every week to the effect that we were working towards an exam, that the parents would have "known". I have never had anyone quibble about paying before, even though sometimes I didn't get the fee till after the exam had happened (too trusting!)
Posted 04 March 2017 - 13:01
Any exam entry will be a three-way decision between me, the student, and the parent(s).
It is maybe more usual for school-based / peripatetic teachers to assume pupils will want to do an exam per year, and to go ahead and send entries in.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 13:19
With my home students, I have weekly contact with a parent at beginning ( and sometimes end) of each lesson, so we have a weekly (short) chat, and there is no way they would be unaware of a prospective exam on the horizon. They are aware of the fees and likely date.
It's slightly different for school-based pupils. I really used to miss the regular parental contact when I did peri work.. But even then, I would have a telephone conversation first to ensure the parent was happy for their child to enter, and knew the cost. The singing pupils didn't have an official exam book, but were learning songs from a variety of publications, so parents wouldn't necessarily be automatically aware that an exam could be happening. Even so, I would think it discourteous to send an invoice without prior discussion, so I can quite understand the OP's friend feeling miffed about it.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 14:33
I always have a conversation with private pupil parents, with pupil there too, about approaching an exam, and when would be a good time and when would be absolutely impossible (like the same term as GCSEs for example).
With school pupils, I send a note home in the practice notebook with a request for the parents' views, and if I don't get any, after a couple more prods, I ask the HoM to send an email about the subject and that usually does the trick.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 15:18
I would be super miffed to suddenly get handed a request for exam fees. They aren't cheap!
Does the kid want to take the exam? If so I guess the only recourse is for the parent to have a chat with the teacher and say they want to be consulted in future. If the kid isn't keen I'd be telling the teacher to cancel the exam.
You don't just enter a kid and expect the parent to cough up the cash with no discussion. That's just rude.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 15:22
I agree with Bad Strad. I can't see that it is appopriate in any sphere to present someone with a bill for something without checking that they want to buy it first. I think in this case the parent has every right to feel annoyed. She should also have the right to refuse to pay on the grounds that she didn't agree to it and doesn't want her child to do it.
Whether it is worth doing that will depend on the circumstances including whether she has any objections to exams (financial or other) and what the child wants to do. Also depends a bit on the age of the child and the communication between teacher and child. If child is 16 and the teacher and child have been discussing the exam and the child has said "oh yes, that's fine, mum will pay" it's harder to blame the teacher. If the child is 6, it's entirely different.
I've always been involved in decisions about when my children should take exams - but then I have seen their teachers on a regular basis so it has been easy. Also, they would never have been entered for exams until I had paid the fee so this couldn't have happened. And long before any request for an exam fee, I would have been asked to buy the necessary music. Perhaps in this case the exam book, or other music, was all borrowed so the mother didn't realise that there was actually going to be an exam.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 18:06
Yes, sounds a bit odd to me. I would never enter a pupil for an exam without having received the entry fee, and also my signed consent slip (which also has a clause about not refunding, that the exam could be any date or time within the given weeks, and what happens in the case of illness which they sign that they've read and understood. Sounds rather inconsiderate unless some vital stage in the communication has been somehow misunderstood somewhere.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 18:18
Unless there is something in the contract for tuition about expecting exams to happen, I would fully expect there to be a separate discussion about any exam preparation, entry and fee. This seems very unusual in a UK context, though I hear it's more common practice in some other markets (China, Malaysia, Hong Kong) where exams are fully expected, and are sometimes covered as part of the termly fee on the automatic assumption everyone will take them.
My daughhter's dance school can be a bit like this, though, you suddenly get a letter home saying the class has all been working for their Grade x ballet exam and you can choose between the individual exam or the class award, which do you want to pick (answer: neither) and there are additional fees for these.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 19:57
I would never enter a pupil for an exam without discussing it with the pupil/parent.
I would always discuss preparing for exams with the parent too so that they understand what is involved for the pupil and for the parent. Parents are crucial to support and encourage their children in the whole instrumental learning process in general but also particularly in the run up to an exam. Parents who have little or no understanding of instrumental exams need to understand the process and the teacher has a role to play to inform the parent if they need it.
Posted 04 March 2017 - 22:23
With a private teacher I would always expect to have been asked. At the JD we just get a bill, and sometimes the Boy has completely forgotten to mention that he's doing an exam. I expect it's in the terms. But seriously, it's very unfair to expect a parent to pay without being consulted. They might not be able to afford it, or might not want their child to do an exam. I've never heard of that happening before.
Posted 05 March 2017 - 10:12
Thanks all! I don't think the mum wants to make a fuss, as her child enjoys the lessons and the teacher seems good in every other way. She was just very surprised and a bit annoyed (I would have been hopping mad). It sounds like a horrible piece of miscommunication/assumption. I've advised her to keep talking to the teacher, and to be honest about how she feels about exams and what she wants for her child. Being non-musical, she feels like a fish out of water, but I'm sure any good teacher would be happy to spend a few minutes making sure they're all on the same page.
Posted 06 March 2017 - 07:51
With reference to the thread in "Teachers" which I started because I am worried about the continual yearly and very steep increases in fees here in France I would simply say that I would never enter a child and simply send the bill. It has to be a discussion between the parents and myself and the pupil has to be involved in the decision making.
I don't think I would have many pupils left if I simply billed, for example, the parents of Grade 3 candidates for the equivalent of £80 and just expected them to pay up.
Posted 06 March 2017 - 18:52
I agree with what others are saying.
It's far too expensive to do this without consultation.
I wouldn't put in an exam entry without getting the money first so there would have to be consultation for that reason.
When it comes to exam preparation I ask the child first, then the parent unless I've already been approached by the parent.
When it come to exam entry I tell them the date or possible range of dates depending on exam board and if they are ok with that and the fee I get the money from them before making the entry.