Make-up lessons and your T&Cs

‘Adam is going on a school trip next week so please could we organise a make-up? ‘ ‘I’m sorry but it’s been sports day today and Emily is exhausted. Please could I cancel her piano lesson today and arrange a make-up another day.’ What do you say?

make-up piano lessons

I’m sure many of you have been faced by this kind of scenario in the last few weeks. Summer term in particular is vulnerable to these type of problems and queries.

Teachers can find themselves either run ragged in the last couple of weeks trying to fit everyone in or teaching during their official holiday period. Neither situations are great and can lead to a feeling of stress or growing resentment towards parents.

We’ve been discussing some solutions to the problem of fitting in make up lessons over in The Community. Here are some of our top tips and ideas for how to respond.

#1 SORT OUT YOUR T&Cs

The next few weeks is the best time to check over and tighten up your Terms and Conditions. What do they say and do you stick to them? Is the wording unambiguous and clear? Giving yourself some space and thinking through what you offer can save a lot of headaches in the long run.

#2 FIXED TEACHING WEEKS

In my own teaching I commit to teaching for 37 weeks in the year. Parents pay for 34 lessons spread over 10 months however students are welcome to attend all 37 if they can manage them. So as the end of term approaches next week most have had 34-35 and a couple have had 36-37. This how I have phrased it in my own Studio Contract:

‘I have a commitment to teach 34 lessons during the academic year. If no lessons are missed students are welcome to come for 3 extra lessons during ‘catch up’ weeks at no additional cost’.

‘If a lesson is missed pupils can re-schedule during a ‘catch up’ week. No refunds are available except in exceptional circumstances’.

#3 NO MAKE-UP POLICY

Some teachers have a clear no make-up policy. This is especially important if you have a large number of students. Other teachers offer to make up a maximum of one lesson per term. Another approach is to just offer a make-up slot if there is a cancellation from another pupil.

#4 USE A SCHEDULING SERVICE

Scheduling services are one way to reduce the amount of admin that any rearranging causes. This includes some of the music studio software programmes such as My Music Staff and Tonara. Whilst these involve some fees the payoff of money versus reorganising hassle is always worth considering.

These considerations can all be brought into your budgetary calculations (see the previous blog Running your Piano Teaching Business). For example, if you pay £10 a month and have 25 weekly pupils the extra cost to add onto lessons per week would be 10p or 40p a month.

#5 END YOUR TERM BEFORE OVERWHELM SETS IN!

A couple of our members individually made the decision to stop all lessons at the end of June. Here’s why:

‘if we are teaching younger pupils, July is a moot learning month – most young kids are too tired to take anything in… and when I pushed through in past years, even less practice took place and, at pupils’ homes there’s resentment when parents have to push too… So I just gave permission for everyone, including me, to take a long summer break’. Angie.

#6 SHARE REARRANGING PERCENTAGES WITH PARENTS

So if none of these suggestions are going to work for you keep everyone in the picture regarding what is and isn’t possible.

If you have a high percentage of make-ups requested send out a group email/newsletter. In it give the percentage of students who have requested one, specify the times you are available and clarify these are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here’s a template for the sort of thing you might say – do feel free to adapt and use:

‘As the end of term approaches I have had an unusually high number of requests for make-up lessons from X% of my students. With only  [X] teaching days left it is not possible to fit everyone in.
As per my contract make-up lessons are [insert wording from your contract].
Nevertheless, I have found as many additional lesson slots as possible. My available times are given below and these will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that once these times are filled no other times will be available this year’.

#7 REFUNDS

Finally, should you offer refunds? Well, that largely depends on your current T&Cs. Generally offering refunds makes a complicated situation even more complicated and can leave you feeling heavy and resentful. This is why it is important to get really clear on what you offer and update your T&Cs accordingly.

Piano Studio admin can feel quite burdensome at times, especially if there is a lack of clarity about the details. With the next few weeks of holiday times ahead maybe it’s time to take action? I’ll be back in two weeks time to help you with some more studio matters.

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers

10 thoughts on “Make-up lessons and your T&Cs

  1. Mary THOMAS

    Dear Sally and Sharon.
    Although I am not in the community any more , I have been looking at the blogs and listening to the Tuesday teaching tips on Facebook
    I want to thank you both for this blog , I have found it very useful and it helped me to write a contract , reorganised how people pay me , I have been doing cash per lesson for years but since October 1 st. all my pupils have been paying me via standing order , why have I not done this before ! The number of cancellation have reduced from about 4 pr 5 each week to now 2 ,and 4 per month , amazing result !
    Mary THOMAS

    Reply
  2. Jan

    Hi there. Very helpful. Can I ask what teachers are charging per hourly rate. Also if you are visiting a pupils home to teach there how much is charged. I am thinking of charging a fixed call out fee.

    Reply
  3. Clare H

    It’s so interesting to see how different people organise this! I always have one less teaching week than the term (i.e. if it’s a 12 week school term, I schedule 11 lessons). The extra week is for make-ups, including if I have had to cancel (which is very rarely). Parents pay upfront at the beginning of the term for all 11 lessons and know that if they miss one there’s no guarentee of it being made up but I will if I can. This is the same for all their other clubs. I hardly have any absences. If they miss hockey, gym or taekwando one week, they don’t get an extra session added on! Special arrangements are obviously at my discretion e.g. long-term sick/ family bereavement. I throw a free concert at the end of the year when all the students bake cakes and play their favourite two pieces from the year. Overall I think it’s very good value for what I know is quite a lot of money but I’ve never had any complaints =D

    Reply
  4. Helen McMurtry

    This is really helpful, thank you Sally.
    Any ideas on what to do when a pupil cancels lessons with you the first week back in September? I ask for 5 weeks notice which gives me time to organise a replacement but it always seems pointless giving the leaving student 5 weeks lessons when they haven’t touched the piano over the summer and don’t intend to come back!

    Reply
    1. Sally C

      Hi Helen, pleased this is of use. I’m planning to publish another blog post along the topic of contracts etc. so I’ll try and cover your question in that! Should go live 26 July so keep a look out.

      Reply
  5. Sarah Garrard

    This is great and very helpful. I do ask for a ‘paid notice period’ of 4 weeks so that I have time to advertise slots and make sure teachers timetables are fairly even. This is the bit that parents say ‘I didn’t sign up to’ even though it says it clearly and they have signed the T&C’s. Any thoughts on notice periods?

    Reply
    1. Sally C

      Hi Sarah, glad this is helpful. You’ve asked a really good question and I will discuss this more in the next blog post. However, briefly notice periods are essential. Because I operate a yearly contract everyone knows they are committed for the year ahead. It really concentrates minds and ensures commitment. I also ask for a deposit. As I say more next time!

      Reply

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