Thursday, 2 February 2017

Full House

This month's meeting saw an almost full house - we were only missing Margaret; so we took the opportunity for a quick group photo.

From left to right:
Katie Overy; David Weston; Kim Rochelle; Joy Smith; Anna Pitt; Rosemary Hodi; Christine McRitchie Pratt; Andrew Millinchip; Sally Daunt; Sue Flohr

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Reasonable adjustments in music exams


Did you know that it is possible for candidates who are dyslexia, dyspraxic or have other Specific Learning Difficulties/neuro-diverse conditions to have certain adjustments made in the music exams run by ABRSM, Trinity College, London College of Music, Rockschool and any other smaller boards?
B.D.A. Music has worked closely with some of these boards to produce a ‘best practice’ document with guidelines on what can and should be done for such candidates. It is always necessary to have some sort of proof that the candidate is (for example) dyslexic and B.D.A. Music or the exam boards can help you sort out what you need here. Do contact

A summary of some of the adjustments that are usually available includes
·         All information about reasonable adjustments should be very clearly signposted.
·         The range of options should be clearly given (and see below).
·         Information should include the point that proof and documentation can take some time to obtain and must be given at the time of entry & certainly before the exam day
·         Supporting documentation should not be required after the first submission.
·         Details of required documentation should be outlined.
·         Contact details for further information should be clearly given.
·         The term ‘Specific Learning Difficulties’ should always be used, rather than ‘learning difficulties’

The examination
·         Examiners, invigilators and stewards should be briefed about the requirements of disabled candidates, including those with SpLDs.
·         Replays of scales allowed without penalty (1st occasion).
·         Additional attempts at aural without penalty.
·         Right-hand/left-hand instructions should include pointing.
·         Examiners should be prepared to point to the place in sight reading if a candidate gets lost.
·         Changes in the score in aural tests can be marked by raising the hand.
·         Acceptance of alternative terms for cadences and scale descriptions.
·         Statement from MPA re legality of photocopying music for ease of reading, should be reproduced
·         Avoid comments relating to reasonable adjustment on report form.
·         Publicise alternative exams (to ‘grades’).
·         No marks to be lost in written exams for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
·         Ignore need to copy out in written exams.

Options available as reasonable adjustments should include
·         Taking the components of the exam in the candidate’s preferred order.
·         Extra time (normally at least 25%) available.
·         Sight-reading, aural, theory and other written tests/information (including diplomas) available in various modified formats including
o   Tinted paper including such paper for rough working and note taking.
o   Enlargement.
o   Modified stave notation.
·         Alternative options to sight-reading or quick study.
·         Alternative options to aural tests.
·         Instructions (scales; aural; vivas etc) to be written down and/or repeated by candidate and limited in number.
·         Use of scale book/words for singers as a prompt.
·         Splitting of aural memory tests into shorter sections.
·         Use of reading ruler or pen.
·         Performance from modified copies or electronic device.
·         Report form typed up.
·         The presence of a supporting person/practical assistant in the exam room.
·         Use of computer (and music software) in written exams.
·         Use of a reader in written exams.
·         Separate room for written exams.
·         Use of an amanuensis.

For further information and/or a copy of the full ‘reasonable adjustments: best practice’ document, please contact

Want to find a dyslexia-aware music teacher?

B.D.A. Music does have a small database of teachers who are aware of neuro-diverse conditions including dyslexia and dyspraxia. The B.D.A. cannot endorse any particular teacher but can pass on such contacts as it has. Please email giving your name, the age and standard of the pupil and instrument/voice and the area of the UK in which you live.

Alternatively, you can try to find some suitably (musically) qualified local teachers and then ring them up one by one and ask them what they know about dyslexia and dyslexia-aware teaching methods. If they are completely ignorant but willing to learn, then you could pass on our information booklet and 'Top Ten Tips' which can be accessed from the BDA website’s ‘Music and Dyslexia’ page

Various organisations publish databases of teachers recommended by them. None of these have list of specifically dyslexia aware teachers but you can use these to find some reputable teachers. The Incorporated Society of Musicians' database is very reliable in terms of qualifications (see below).
Ask the teacher if he or she is aware of dyslexia. If so, what do they know about it? Are they aware that it affects music and music learning? If so, what do they know about this? What do they understand by ‘multi-sensory teaching’? Have they read anything (and if so, does it include information from B.D.A. Music and any of the books listed at the end of B.D.A. Music’s information booklet)? Ask them, perhaps at a meeting, for suggestions of ways in which they might teach the student involved. 
Organisations that have databases of teachers
ISM: The Incorporated Society of Musicians. 
Directory gives qualifications, instrument and biography. All members of the ISM have to have been recommended by someone of standing in the music profession.
AOTOS: The Association of Teachers’ of Singing
Directory of Members/Find a singing teacher. The directory gives qualifications and teaching categories.
EPTA: The European Piano Teachers’ Association
Directory includes basic data: in some cases only contact details. (working in association with the Musicians Union). 
Directory gives qualifications, instruments, ability levels taught and notes including membership of relevant organisations such as those above.
1.    Beware of general ‘Find a music teacher’ type websites which do not endorse teachers with any membership of a professional organisation.
2.    Look carefully at qualifications and check what they mean. Contact B.D.A. Music further about this, if necessary.
Do you know other dyslexic musicians in your area or at your local Higher Education Institution? If so, do any of those people work with someone ‘good’ – someone that understands dyslexia and teaches them in a way that they can get on with?

Can any other dyslexic music students help you?

Margaret Malpas MBE

We are very proud to announce that Margaret Malpas, joint Co-Chair of The British Dyslexia Association and a member of the music committee was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list in 2016 for services to Education.

The BDA issued the following statement

Margaret, with her husband Jim, was asked to help the BDA when it was facing a serious threat in 2006. Over the last ten years, they have worked strenuously with the staff to bring the Charity into good financial health. Using their expertise from growing a successful professional education company, they developed the embryonic training service into one which has now trained tens of thousands of teachers, lecturers and employers in how to support those with dyslexia.  Margaret is particularly proud of some specific initiatives which are making a real difference to the lives of dyslexic children and adults. She conceived of the idea of group teaching for children on a carousel basis which enables them to get specialist support at only £8 per hour. The BDA is just supporting the opening of its sixth Children Will Shine group, this time located in Bracknell. She retrained as a specialist dyslexia teacher for adults and in 2012 began work to create the Dyslexia Adult Network (DAN). Four years on and DAN is now operating as a collaboration of all the charities dealing with adult issues and actively campaigning with Government to secure improvements in services for adults with dyslexia and related conditions. More recently, Margaret has been researching the characteristics of successful adults with dyslexia and how those attributes can be developed in others.

Dr. Kate Saunders, British Dyslexia Association CEO, said: “We are delighted with this award. Margaret has done outstanding work in this field, over many years. She has used her considerable expertise, experience and professional skills to start up and develop a number of key initiatives for the benefit of many thousands of dyslexic individuals, working extremely hard and on a voluntary basis. This selfless service to assist dyslexic children and adults reflects the very best of the human spirit for empathy, understanding, compassion and positive social entrepreneurship.”