Sheffield piano teacher denies faking exams

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A music teacher has denied enlisting the help of a phony official to conduct sham musical exams at her home – claiming she has been ‘hurt and betrayed’ by the allegations.

Helen Smith is accused of putting on a series of fraudulent examinations for five students at her house in Pickard Crescent, Stradbroke, Sheffield, on December 15, 2012.

Smith denies six counts of fraud by abuse of position and one charge of fraud by false representation, between February 27, 2012, and March 28, 2013.

Students were tested by an unknown woman who claimed to be an official examiner.

Giving evidence at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Smith, aged 42, said she had arranged the exams in good faith with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, the ABRSM.

She said an administrative error by the board was possibly to blame for it having no record of the tests nor of sending an examiner to the address on the day in question. Smith said she thought the woman was an official examiner.

Smith said she was sad that pupils she considered friends believed she was to blame.

“I feel very hurt and betrayed and let down by the board’s inaccuracies or whatever has happened,” she said. “I did my job as a music teacher to make sure they took their exams.”

Lynne Butler, deputy head of UK operations for ABRSM, told the court the organisation had no record of any exam taking place at Smith’s house on December 15 and had not sent any examiner to the property.

She said ABRSM had sent a cheque for £264.90 earlier in 2012 to Smith for cancelled examinations which was cashed by the teacher on July 18.

That money included a full refund for an exam that had been due to be taken by Andrea Jackson. She said Smith had told ABRSM the reason for the cancellation was Ms Jackson’s father had died – something later revealed not to be true. Sharon Copley, the mother of one of Smith’s teenage pupils, was told her daughter should attend the test for Grade Five piano at her house on December 15 by Smith instead of another official exam they had already booked.

Mrs Copley said her daughter was distraught to learn her result was not official, adding: “She was absolutely devastated.

“To be told by somebody you trusted that you have passed with a distinction, and to then find out the person she looked up to hadn’t told the truth – she felt humiliated and let down,” she said.

“It knocked her for six, as it did us all. We are sad more than anything else.”

A ruling is expected next Wednesday.