Sheffield piano teacher guilty of exam fraud

Helen Smith arrives at Sheffield Magistrates' Court.
Helen Smith arrives at Sheffield Magistrates' Court.
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A Sheffield music teacher has been found guilty of enlisting the help of a phony official to conduct sham piano exams at her home.

Helen Smith, aged 42, was convicted of six counts of fraud by abuse of position and one charge of fraud by false representation between February 2012 and March 2013 at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

The court heard she put on fraudulent exams for five students at her house in Pickard Crescent, Stradbroke, on December 15, 2012.

She also wrote to the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music to claim a refund for one student for a separate cancelled examination, falsely claiming the woman’s father had died.

Finding her guilty, District Judge Sheila Driver said Smith’s explanation the problems had been caused by administrative mix-ups by the board was ‘nonsense’.

She said Smith had attempted to engage ‘in an exercise of smoke and mirrors’ as Smith represented herself in a two-day trial last week.

During the trial, David Godfrey, prosecuting, said the students had lost more than £1,500 in exam fees and extra tuition in total.

The court heard students had been tested at Smith’s home by an unknown woman who claimed to be an official examiner.

District Judge Driver said pupils who gave evidence all commented on the ‘unusual demeanour and informal disorganised manner’ of the examiner.

The judge said: “She didn’t appear to know what she was doing and had to have pieces printed for her.”

Smith had claimed she had arranged the exams in good faith and believed an administrative error by ABRSM was to blame for it having no record of the tests nor of sending an examiner on the day in question.

Smith, who taught at Abbeydale Grange School for more than four years, had previously been banned from teaching in schools for two years by the General Teaching Council after she toured America while claiming sick pay in 2007.

Sentencing was adjourned to a later date.