Exams certificates faked by shamed dance teacher

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A SHAMED Chorley dance teacher who made ‘cut and paste’ certificates after faking exams lied because she was too ashamed to tell her family.

Sentencing Natasha Jones, Judge Stuart Baker said she had betrayed the parents of children at her dance school, The Ballet Academy, by lying and falsifying documents.

The court heard how the Stonyhurst College teacher, who also ran her own dance school at St Bede’s Primary, in Clayton Green, Chorley, had staged the exams despite not even being a member of the prestigious awarding bodies.

She charged the parents more than £100 for the tap dance exams, some of which she staged at the private school, and then made the certificates on her own computer.

It was only when parents became suspicious and rang the awarding bodies, including The Royal Academy of Dance, that it was revealed that the awards were in fact fakes.

But, it took three years to go to court after Jones, from Boarded Barn, Euxton, continued to deny the accusations.

She pleaded guilty to fraud using a false instrument last month.

Prosecuting, David Traynor told Court One at Sessions House: “The families had paid big sums of money for the dance lessons and at various stages their children were entered into exams through the dance school.

“They were sent to an exam centre and were assessed by an apparent external examiner and those who passed were issued with a certificate.

“In 2010 parents started to become suspicious about the validity of those certificates and started to make enquiries.

“The defendant was arrested, but denied the offences.”

Defending the 35-year-old, Beverley Hackett said Jones was too ashamed to tell her family what she had done.

She said her client’s life had descended into chaos as she was juggling working 60 hours a week with bringing up her children, and she had not kept her paperwork up-to-date.

She added: “Her work was not properly organised. She cared deeply for the children and not wanting to disappoint them, she lied and falsified documents.

“She was too ashamed to tell her family.

“She was ashamed of the role model she was presenting to her children and found it hard to come to terms with what she had done.”

Miss Hackett said that Jones wanted to apologise to the children and their families and said she had found the process to be one of deep embarrassment.

She had to be helped into the dock by her father, a vicar, and sobbed during the hearing.

Sentencing her to a 12-month community order, Judge Baker said: “It is a particularly sad day when a court has to pass a criminal sentence on a woman of previous good character who has let her family down, herself down and a lot of other people down as well.”

He said her lies had been ‘unpleasant’, ‘clear’ and ‘persistent’ and also ordered her to pay £375 compensation to two of the families involved.

Reacting to the sentence outside court, David Holland, from Whittle-le-Woods, who had sent his teenage daughter Megan to The Ballet Academy from the age of four, said: “It wasn’t about the punishment, it’s the fact that she has finally admitted what she had done.

“We sent our children to the dance schools for a number of years and she broke our trust.

“The important thing is that our children all still love to dance and we are proud of how they have dealt with this process.

“We will now draw a line under what has happened and move on and we hope Natasha does so too.”

PC Rik Nicol, who led the three-year investigation, praised their determination to bring Jones to justice,

He said: “This result has been a massive relief to all concerned.

“I cannot praise the parents enough, they have displayed an excellent level of patience, determination and support for their children.”

A statement from the exam boards, added: “As three of the world’s leading dance education organisations and recognised examinations boards, we recognise that any false certification of International Dance Teachers’ Association (IDTA), Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), or Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) examinations is malpractice, and we therefore take it extremely seriously.

“We would like to reassure our members that we remain committed to safeguarding the standards and reputation of our examinations, and to protecting our teachers and their students from the consequences of such criminal behaviour.”