ESTA Postgraduate certificate – Strings

About the course

This course gives you the opportunity to take a look at your own teaching technique and specific strategies and techniques you use, in addition to standing back and developing a broader perspective on teaching and learning and music education in general.

This international course is at Masters Level (level 7) begins with a summer residential study (5th – 9th August) at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, UK and then continues online from September 2024 – June 2025

We offer a well structured programme with mentors who are all highly experienced teachers, and a blend of face-to-face and online learning that results in a level 7 qualification from a well regarded higher education institution. Being a student on this course is all about developing as a reflective practitioner; someone who is willing to stand back and look at what they are doing, and contemplate changing aspects if they need to. The awarded PG Cert is a unique qualification for the teaching profession.

You will be assigned a mentor from the ESTA mentor panel. Your mentor’s job is to guide you through the course, lead study sessions and assess the work you submit. Your studies, be they online through webinars, one-to-one meetings with your mentor or course leader, discussion groups, reading, making a video, or reflecting on practice, will focus on every aspect of your teaching with particular relevance to the context in which you work. This work will help you to question things you may have taken for granted, explore work with and without notation and develop a holistic approach to your teaching.

Your course leader will provide an overview of the whole course, lead study sessions, and also make assessments of all students’ work to ensure fairness. In order to gain the maximum benefit from your investment in this programme of study you should plan your diary carefully to make sure you have all the deadlines for completion and submission of work highlighted.

Who is it for?

The ESTA PG Cert is designed for teachers who want to enhance their approach to teaching through a programme of study that is both academic and practical.

Successful completion represents one third of a Master’s degree.

Participants will:

  • Develop practical skills in teaching musical and technical material, fostering an engaging and student-appropriate approach to music learning and performance
  • Foster an investigative and inquisitive approach to teaching by developing skills in both research and reflection
  • Actively develop communication skills to enable effective teaching

Develop skills in curriculum planning that are highly relevant in the profession.

Who teaches the course

Head of PG Cert

Helen Dromey

Helen Dromey is Course Leader for the ESTA PG Cert, having been involved with the course since its inception in 2017.

She is Principal Teaching Fellow in Music Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Southampton, supports UK Music Masters teachers through observations and consultancy, and continues to teach the violin and viola herself.

Previously, Helen was Lead Teacher for Strings for West Sussex Music, where she established String Start, a group violin-with-musicianship programme for children aged 4–7, and delivered a series of CPD programmes for instrumental teachers. 

Helen is currently completing doctoral research at the University of York, examining pupils’ progression beyond whole-class instrumental learning, and designing new pedagogies to improve engagement. This research draws on Helen’s wealth of experience of teaching the violin and viola in individual, small- and large-group settings, including Whole-Class Ensemble Tuition (WCET).
A qualified primary school teacher, she has also worked as a Music Coordinator, delivering classroom Music across Key Stages 1–2. 

Helen graduated from King’s College London in Music and, later, in Historical Musicology, gained her PGCE at the University of Chichester, and attained her LRAM at the Royal Academy of Music.

Head of Department – strings

Sarah Crooks

Sarah is a widely experienced teacher of the violin and general musicianship, working with string players in a range of contexts. Her approach as a teacher is to guide rather than to prescribe learning, encouraging self-discovery through exploration.

At the RNCM she is Senior Tutor of Young Strings, a programme with an integrated approach which aims to engage the whole child in musical learning. The methods of Dalcroze and Kodály are central to the programme’s pedagogy. Pupils move, sing, play, improvise, collaborate, discuss and reflect. This holistic, creative approach to music education underpins Sarah’s teaching in all settings, inspired by her training as a Dalcroze Eurhythmics teacher.

Sarah also enjoys working with advanced musicians and teachers, helping them to develop their teaching, research and reflection skills. She leads CPD in many settings and works regularly with undergraduate and postgraduate students at the RNCM. She was delighted to be invited to join the Mentor panel on the ESTA PG Cert and relishes the opportunities to share practice with teachers from all over the world.

In other roles, Sarah is a mother of two young children, a Child Protection Officer at the RNCM and a student of the Alexander Technique. She hopes to train as an Alexander teacher in the near future, which will add new dimensions to her work with musicians.


Course content by unit

Unit 1: 
Teaching bowed string technique to children and young people learning bowed stringed instruments 

  1. Posture
  2. Position of, and with, the instrument
  3. Bow
  4. Musculature
  5. Making the sound
  6. Left hand-Right hand
  7. Vibrato
  8. Shifting
  9. Tension and how to avoid it
  10. Pizzicato
  11. Warm-ups
  12. Slurred and legato bowing
  13. String crossing and legato bowings
  14. String crossing and double stops
  15. Bowing: detache, portato; spiccato; martelle; sautille
  16. Harmonics
  17. Repairs

Unit 2: 
How children and young people learn to play bowed stringed instruments

  1. How learners learn
  2. Simultaneous Learning
  3. Learning spiral
  4. My learners now
  5. Understanding, assimilating and consolidating
  6. Skills, knowledge and understanding
  7. Learning music musically
  8. Developing aural awareness/perception and acuity
  9. Pupil/teacher relationships
  10. Learning scales and studies
  11. Starting a lesson

Unit 3: 
Teaching strategies for teachers of bowed stringed instruments working with children and young people

  1. Understanding my teaching now
  2. Preparation for teaching
  3. Expectation of teaching outcomes
  4. Diagnosis of learners’ needs
  5. Audio-Visual-Kinaesthetic learning
  6. Aptitude for learning
  7. Motivation for learning
  8. Simultaneous learning (P Harris)
  9. Assessment
  10. Exams/Festivals/Competitions
  11. Tutors/methods
  12. Teaching whole classes/small groups/individuals
  13. Proactive and reactive teaching

Unit 4: 
Developing a bowed strings teaching curriculum for children and young people           

  1. Understanding what is meant by a curriculum and a syllabus
  2. Preparing and implementing schemes of work
  3. Short/medium and long term planning
  4. Personalising learning
  5. Becoming a reflective practitioner
  6. Communicating as a musician
  7. Playing and performing
  8. Chamber music
  9. Special Needs
  10. Rolland – Suzuki – Colourstrings
  11. Alexander Technique


In Unit 1, students work towards presenting a short, live presentation focused on a specific aspect of playing technique and a video recording of the opening ten minutes of a first lesson, introducing a student to the instrument.

For Unit 2, students submit an abstract of their written work and receive comments from their mentor before their final 3,500 essay is submitted.

In preparation for the final assessment in Unit 3, students analyse the content of a lesson and provide a brief written discussion of their findings. This leads on to a case study of their own (recorded) teaching. Students reflect in writing and specifically consider the impact on learning, contextualising and supporting, with references to relevant teaching literature.

For Unit 4, students first critique the published schemes of work or tutor methods of others, before constructing their own one year curriculum appropriate to a specific category of learner which includes a scheme of work/short term plan and an example of a detailed lesson plan.

Grades, rather than percentages, are given for assessed work. Students receive detailed written, video, or verbal feedback for all assessed work.

Course structure

The course is timetabled over a period of one calendar year with the next intake beginning in August 2024.

There are four units of study which must all be completed in chronological order. A further three additional units focus on: safeguarding children and young people in music education; equality, diversity and inclusion in music education, and promoting children and young people’s positive behaviour.
The course is delivered online plus 4 days summer residential study at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, UK. The course is delivered in English.

*Travel costs from the student’s location to Cheltenham are not included in the course fee

Course fees

  • £2,995.00 ESTA members (within Europe)
  • £3,950.00 UK Residents
  • £5,950.00 Overseas Resident

£3,695.00 for members of the following UK organisations

  • ISM members (UK residents only)
  • EPTA members (UK residents only)

*Fees include full board and accommodation at the ESTA Summer School.
** Travel costs from the student’s location to Cheltenham are not included in the course fee.
*** The summer school is a mandatory element of the course.

Further information

What you need

Students will need online access (at home) before, during and immediately following participation on the course. They will also need the facility to make simple audio and video recordings throughout the course (most smartphones and laptops will have this facility). These will be needed for:

  • Webinars: These will be prepared and delivered by the course leader, members of the mentor panel and invited guest presenters. Webinars will take the form of pre-recorded video presentations with accompanying audio-visual and reading material, each coupled with setting of follow-up work for students.
  • Videos of teaching: Students are required to submit up to 4 videos of themselves teaching. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain written permission from: the student they are teaching; the student they are teaching’s parent/carer or responsible adult, and the school or institution, where appropriate.
  • Follow-up work may include student discussion online (synchronous or asynchronous) or completion of questionnaires or submission of brief written statements.

Time commitment

Online classes take as much time as regular on-campus classes. You need to set aside sufficient time for study. Plan to spend at least as much time working on the assignments and studying as you would with a traditional course. We recommend that you need to set aside 12-15 hours for study per week in order to get the maximum benefit from the ESTA PG Cert course.


  • Students enrolled on the ESTA PG Certificate course are expected to attend and participate fully in all study sessions set out in the course documentation and Handbook.
  • We understand that musicians are often reluctant to turn down playing opportunities but it is unacceptable to use last minute playing engagements as an excuse to miss study sessions.
  • Please refer to the course website for details about computer literacy, levels of engagement and our student code of conduct. The course is delivered in the English language.

Entry requirements

  • Applicants must hold a degree (which does not have to be in musical studies) that was taught or researched in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above, or be able to demonstrate performance skills at licentiate diploma level (level 6) in music on the instrument they plan to study, alongside teaching experience.
  • Alternatively, they may hold an appropriate English language qualification that must be acceptable to the University of Chichester.
  • Applicants are expected to be proficient as musicians, demonstrating a performance level of a minimum standard equivalent to Grade 8 ABRSM or Trinity College London.
  • All applicants must have access to an online working environment. Skype will be used for mentor/student interaction on the course.
  • All applicants will be interviewed face-to-face in their own country or via Skype.

University of Chichester In-House Test. The University of Chichester also offers a FREE TESTING service to students applying to Chichester. The test is an IELTS equivalent, and is for students who are already in the UK or who are applying through one of our authorised agents in country.