Court fight to send 'real-life Billy Elliot' to school

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The Independent Online

The parents of a "real-life" Billy Elliot - who hid his passion for ballet from schoolfriends to avoid bullying, and danced withthe Royal Ballet School - has launched a High Court battle for funding to achieve his dream of becoming a professional.

The parents of a "real-life" Billy Elliot - who hid his passion for ballet from schoolfriends to avoid bullying, and danced withthe Royal Ballet School - has launched a High Court battle for funding to achieve his dream of becoming a professional.

Jacob Youngson, aged 12, has been kept at an £11,600-a-year private school only by his parents' willingness to "borrow and go without", Mr Justice Scott Baker was told yesterday at the High Court in London.

The judge was asked to overturn Birmingham City Council's decision of February last year, upheld on appeal five months later, not to award the child a discretionary grant to attend the Elmhurst School for Dance and the Performing Arts at Camberley, Surrey.

Comparisons with Stephen Daldry's debut film Billy Elliot, about a boy in a Durham mining community who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, proved irresistible in court. Rambert de Mello, representing Jacob, of Stirchley, said: "I am told there is a film called Billy Elliot that raises similar issues to this case. I have not seen it myself." Mr Justice Scott Baker said: "I wondered how long it would be before you mentioned Billy Elliot."

Mr de Mello said Jacob's "considerable talent" was not in dispute. At age 11, he danced with the Royal Ballet and is the only boy from Birmingham to be a junior associate with theBallet School. But his one hope of becoming a top-class dancer, an ambition about which he was "committed and passionate", was by obtaining assistance.

Mr de Mello read a letter from David Bintley, Birmingham Royal Ballet School direct-or, who said financial problems were ruining the prospects of many young dancers from families with modest means.

Clive Sheldon, for the council, said it was not under a duty to fund Jacob's placement "at the school of his choice - irrespective of expenditure", and a place at Elmhurst was not the only means of fulfilling his ambition. Judgment was reserved.