School of dance was just a sham

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THE owner of a Chorley dance school duped parents out of thousands of pounds for fake exams and ‘cut and paste’ certificates.

Natasha Jones, who owned The Ballet Academy, pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court to forging certificates from prestigious organisations, including The Royal Academy of Dance.

The court heard how the 35-year-old would charge anything from £27 to £108 for the exams, despite not being a registered member of the authorities.

One parent told the Guardian how he became suspicious of the mother-of-three, from Boarded Barn, Euxton, after she gave him a certificate which looked like it had been made on a home computer.

David Holland, who sent his daughter Megan to The Ballet Academy, which Jones ran from St Bede’s RC Primary School, said: “My daughter started dancing at the school when she was four.

“We would continuously be asking Natasha for the certificates after she had passed the exams and kids love that kind of thing.

“She would come up with all the usual excuses – that she had forgotten it, that she’d left it on her desk or that it had been locked in a classroom where she worked.

“I thought it was down to her being completely unorganised as she was a lovely lady and a good dance teacher, but when we eventually got one it looked like it had been cobbled together.

“It seemed like someone had just used cut and paste to make it, but even then I thought she probably couldn’t find the original so had made that to make up for it.”

However, David, from Whittle-le-Woods, claimed he became even more concerned after an exam was cancelled.

He added: “Natasha had told us it was with one particular dance organisation, but that it had to be cancelled because of bad weather.

“She said she had rearranged it for two weeks later, but used a different exam board and it just didn’t seem to add up.”

Eventually it was revealed that Jones, who had started the school in 1997, didn’t belong to any of the dance examining bodies she had been claiming to be apart of, including The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, and the International Dance Teachers Association.

David said: “It was all a pack of lies.

“I contacted another parent who said she had her own suspicions and we sent the certificates to the dance boards and they confirmed they were frauds.

“It wasn’t about the money, it was the fact that we had trusted her for all them years.

“You bring up your children to teach them what’s right and wrong, but then a person who my daughter saw as a big sister blew that apart.”

Even the dance school’s website claims that examinations were taken with the Royal Academy of Dance and said it had a ‘100 per cent pass rate’ with the ‘majority’ of students achieving distinction or merit.

When the school closed, the 37 students had to move to new classes in the town.

Elaine Walsh, from Euxton, also sent her son Adam to the academy. She believes she spent around £1,500 on classes and exams.

She said: “Adam was four when he started at the school and was 12 when it all came to light.

“There were little things that didn’t seem to fit together and I had my suspicions, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“When someone is a dance teacher you put your faith and trust into them as they are looking after your child and it was so hard to explain to Adam that an adult had lied to him.

“We feel very let down by Natasha as she lied to us for such a long time.”

Jones pleaded guilty to four counts of making the false certificates at a hearing on January 14 and was bailed until sentencing on February 15.