Exam congratulations

posted 22 Mar 2021, 09:26 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 16 Apr 2021, 08:08 ]

Well done to all my students who took exams this term.  I am proud of all your achievements, especially as you were dealing with the challenges of online exams.

Daisy - Grade 8 singing with Merit
Simran - Grade 7 singing with Merit
William - Grade 5 theory with Merit
Georgia - Grade 4 singing
Lucy Grade 3 singing with Merit

Easter 2021 and the Summer Term

posted 14 Mar 2021, 05:01 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 14 Mar 2021, 05:03 ]

Hello everyone

Just a quick note to let you know my plans for Easter and next term.

I shall be teaching up to and including Thursday 1st April.  If you normally have a Friday or Saturday lesson in that week, and would like to have a lesson earlier in the week instead, please let me know and I'll do what I can to fit you in.

I'm going to take the whole Easter week from 5th to 10th April off, and then will be available again from the 12th April.

As it does not yet appear that it'll be legal for multiple households to mix by that date, I intend to stay entirely online for lessons until half term at least - that is, for the whole of April and May.

I will review the situation as it unfolds, and will let you know about the second half of next term when there is more information on which to make a decision.

Please note online lessons will remain available for those who want or need them, even after I'm able to offer face to face lessons.

Problem with my e-mail

posted 23 Jan 2021, 03:12 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 23 Jan 2021, 03:12 ]

Hello everyone

Just to warn you, I've been contacted by the parent of one of my students, who received an e-mail which purported to come from me, with an attachment, that was completely unexpected.  

For the time being, please DO NOT OPEN anything that appears to come from me unless you are expecting a file. I will text to let you know if I am sending you something, so if anything arrives without a text, please contact me.

Sorry about this, I hope I can sort it soon.


New Year 2021

posted 9 Jan 2021, 08:21 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 9 Jan 2021, 08:21 ]

Hi everyone

I hope you've had a good Christmas and that the New Year has started well for you.

I have updated the vacancies list, and I know that there are some people who need to change their schedules. If you're one of those people, please let me know what time you have free, and I'll see what I can fit.

With the current COVID situation, I am taking it as certain that I won't be able to teach in person this term, so will be staying online.

I have found out now that in-person exams will not be happening until at least May.  So anyone who wants to take an exam this term will have to do an online exam instead. I will discuss this with each of you in your next lesson back.

In the majority of cases this will mean preparing an extra song or piece, but we will keep working on the aural, sight-reading and scales or folk song elements as well - after all they are useful skills regardless of the exam situation.

Finally, I'd just like to remind you that the Youtube videos of the Christmas concert have now been taken down. Thank you for contributing, you were all marvellous.

Best wishes


Christmas 2020

posted 23 Dec 2020, 11:56 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 23 Dec 2020, 11:57 ]

Hi everyone

Well done to everyone who took part in this term's concert.  It was a brilliant event, and I'm proud of all of you.

Don't forget that the Youtube videos will be available for a week.

I'm now on my Christmas holidays, and will be re-starting lessons on 4th January.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Exam congratulations

posted 10 Dec 2020, 03:58 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 10 Dec 2020, 03:58 ]

Even though the exam seasons this year have been completely messed up by Covid-19, a number of people have worked their way through the disruption to some awesome results.  Congratulations to all of you.

Jemima - Grade 5 Singing and Grade 5 Theory
Oliver - Grade 4 Singing
Neilay - Grade 2 Singing with Merit
Ishaan and Sophia - Singing Prep Test

Half Term Autumn 2020

posted 23 Oct 2020, 03:12 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 23 Oct 2020, 03:12 ]

Hi everyone

Just to let you know, I shall be taking a break for half term next week.  Lessons will recommence from 2nd November onwards.

Have a good rest!


I'm back

posted 15 Aug 2020, 01:36 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 15 Aug 2020, 01:36 ]

Hi everyone

I hope you've all enjoyed the sunshine the last few days.

I'm back from my holidays now, and available to do lessons from Monday onwards.

If you'd like a lesson this week, please let me know.

If you'd like a lesson at a different time this week, the sooner you let me know the better, please, so I can sort out what other times I have.

If you aren't going to have a lesson this week, please let me know that too, as soon as you can, so I can offer your space to someone who needs a reschedule.

Thanks :)

See you soon!

Summer Holiday

posted 3 Aug 2020, 08:03 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 3 Aug 2020, 08:03 ]

Hello Everyone

Well done to all the performers who took part in the Virtual Concert on Friday.  You all put in stunning performances, whether live or videoed, and I am incredibly proud of all of you.

Don't forget, the concert Youtube playlist is available to attendees until next Friday (7th August) after which it will be taken down.

I'm now off for a couple of weeks to rest and recover before we kick off again on 17th August.

Have a good break!


Changes to ABRSM theory exams

posted 25 Jul 2020, 00:31 by Catherine Jennaway   [ updated 25 Jul 2020, 00:31 ]

Dear everyone

 Sorry, this is LONG.  But it's important.

 I'm writing to tell you about the change to the ABRSM's theory examinations at grades 1 -5, which has been introduced in the last couple of weeks.  You can find out more information for yourself at  but here is my view on the situation.

Also, please feel free to share this information with any other instrumental teachers you may work with, as I am sure they will have their own views on the subject.



ABRSM has offered grades 1-8 theory exams for many years, complementing the practical exams.  A pass at grade 5 theory is a prerequisite to access ABRSM's higher grades (6-8) of practical exams.

Until now, the theory exams have been a traditional written exam paper, taken either in a school or a public exam centre, with invigilators in the room observing the candidates as they write their scripts.  Grades 1-3 are a 90 minute exam, grades 4 and 5 a 2 hour exam and grades 6 to 8 a 3 hour exam.   The exam is held once a term, and there is no flexibility over when that will occur, it is a given for every candidate in the UK.

ABRSM have for some time been considering a move to online examinations for grades 1-5. 

With the Covid-19 crisis making it impossible to hold written exams at present, they decided to announce the change, going public with the information on 15th July.  There will be an online exam session for Grade 5 only at the end of August, after which the November session, and all subsequent sessions, for all theory grades 1-5 will be online, on the date originally planned.

Entries for the August grade 5 exam session open on Monday 27th July and close on Friday 31st July.  The exam itself will be at 5pm on Wednesday 26th August.


ABRSM will NOT be holding any more written theory exams at grade 1 to 5.


The online exams

ABRSM will be using something called a remotely-proctored exam system.  They have contracted with an American firm called PSI who will be running the exams for them.

Exams can be taken on any suitable equipment, in any suitable location.  At present the exam still has to be on the specified exam day and time, but the ABRSM hope they should be able to offer more exam slots than the current 3 a year.

The equipment

The exam is taken by downloading the exam company's software onto either a desktop or laptop computer, which the candidate, parent or school must provide.  The software can't be used on tablets or smartphones.  The computer used must be either a Windows or an Apple machine, and must have a webcam. 

The webcam is used by PSI before the exam starts to take a slow survey of the room in which the exam is taking place, to ensure there are no books, or pre-printed or written materials in the area, nor should there be smartphones or tablets. The webcam is then used to observe and video record the candidate throughout the exam.  If there is no webcam, then the candidate is disqualified from the exam.

The downloaded software can detect, among other things, whether there is more than one screen attached to the computer - in which case the additional screen must be removed - and whether the candidate attempts to print screen, copy and paste, open any other programme on the computer.  If the software fails to download, the candidate is disqualified from the exam.

The exam then proceeds online, requiring a steady and unbroken internet connection.  Any break in the connection must be re-established within the exam time, or the candidate will only be marked on the work already submitted.

Exam questions will cover the same syllabus as the old written exams, with one small difference, but will be of a different format, as the answers will have to be entered by either keyboard or mouse.  Many of the questions will be multiple choice rather than long constructed answers.  There is no indication yet as to whether it will be possible to answer questions in any order or whether one will have to proceed through the exam in one sweep.

The mark scheme will change, with the maximum mark possible being 75, and a pass mark of 50.

The online nature of the exams means they will be marked automatically, but results will not be made available until the videos of all candidates' exams have been reviewed.


The exam location

Exams can be taken alone at home or in a group in school, provided students are seated so that they cannot see each other or anyone else's computer. 

Whichever venue is used, the exam area is required to be be quiet, uncluttered and undisturbed for the entirety of the exam time.  And, as has been mentioned in passing above, there must be nothing in the area that shows any musical information or depictions of any keyboard or other instrument. 

Obviously every candidate must have their own computer, so if, for example, siblings want to take the exam at home on the same day, sufficient technology must be available for everyone, and the candidates must be separated.


I have a number of concerns with this new exam regime.

I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of candidates being remotely observed during the exam.  I cannot see how this appropriate for safeguarding reasons.  I have further discomfort about the recording of candidates in exams.

I am also deeply uncomfortable with the requirement that every family should obtain a suitable laptop for each family member taking the exam, and the need for a sufficiently fast and stable broadband connection.  These will exclude less affluent families from the exam opportunity, and therefore also from the higher grades of practical exams.

I also dislike the idea of being required to download unknown software onto a computer.  There has been no opportunity for candidates, teachers or parents to view the software before the change was introduced, or to see how effectively it can be uninstalled.  That dislike is intensified by the awareness that the software in question has the capability to detect hardware and running software, and to detect keystrokes.  This strikes me as a major breach of the General Data Protection Rules.

I also am very concerned at the rushed way the ABRSM have announced the change.  There was a little over two weeks between the announcement of the exam format and the closing date for entries, and there has so far only been one brief document of sample questions (in PDF format, not as they will appear on the exam itself) on the ABRSM website.

I have expressed these concerns, and other lesser ones, to ABRSM.  I have done this both by e-mailing them directly, and by participating in discussions on social media.  Their answers have not allayed my concerns yet.


I have been invited by the European Piano Teachers Association to participate in a webinar on the topic of online theory exams, which will happen on Wednesday 29th July.  I will post a link to the youtube video of the webinar afterwards.


Options we have

There are options we can explore regarding the need for grade 5 theory to do higher exams.

First, the other major exam boards (Trinity and LCM) in the UK are still offering paper exams, and these are recognised by ABRSM as being equivalent to their own exams.  They therefore carry the same access to the higher grades.  The reason I haven't used these in the past is simply logistical - they have fewer exam centres across the UK so it's a bigger time commitment to sit the paper.

Second, the other Ofqual-acredited exam boards (including Trinity, LCM, MTB and Rockschool) do not require the theory qualification to enter their higher grade exams. They still confer the same UCAS points for those who need them. I have used Trinity, Rockschool and LCM before, and am happy to consider their exams again in future.  ABRSM is the system I know best, and that is why I have used that as my first choice of exams, but I am open to changes as necessary.

Finally, you may still wish to do the ABRSM theory exams in this new format.  I will, of course, always support such decisions and will help anyone who wants to take the exams to do so.  But at the moment I will do this with some considerable concern.


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