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The BBC's Joe Campbell
"His dreams had seemed to come to an end"
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Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 00:49 GMT
Mystery donor for 'Billy Elliot' dancer
Dancer Jacob Youngson and classmates
Jacob Youngson's school fees are £11,600-a-year
A wealthy secret benefactor is offering to partly pay tuition fees for a real-life Billy Elliot whose dreams of becoming a professional dancer were dealt a legal blow.

Jacob Youngson, 13, lost a High Court attempt last month to force Birmingham City Council to pay his dance school fees.

The defeat meant he would have to drop out of dance lessons because his parents could not afford the fees.

But his mother Sarah disclosed on Sunday that a man, who she has promised not to identify, has offered to pay a substantial part of his fees for the next three years.

Jacob  Youngson
Jacob may be a step closer to realising dream
Mrs Youngson said: "We are absolutely delighted. It will not cover the whole cost, but it goes a long way."

She said the secret benefactor had made just two conditions to giving the money - his identity must never be revealed and Jacob must continue his tuition until he is 16.

Both Mrs Youngson, 33, and Jacob's father Keith, 42, from Stirchley, West Midlands, believe the offer will make all the difference to being able to keep Jacob at the Elmhurst School for Dance and the Performing Arts in Camberley, Surrey.

Mrs Youngson said: "We have been told that Jacob not only has the talent and technical ability but he also shows the drive and determination which he needs to become a successful ballet dancer.

"Once he is 16 he will be able to apply for government money to continue his lessons and things should get a lot easier after that."

We have been told that Jacob not only has the talent and technical ability but he also shows the drive and determination which he needs to become a successful ballet dancer

Sarah Youngson
Mr Justice Scott Baker had said at the High Court in London that education authorities were not under a duty to provide "a utopian system" to educate a pupil "to his maximum potential".

He ruled the council's decision to refuse a discretionary grant was not irrational or unreasonable, and did not breach the Human Rights Act or statutory regulations.

Jacob's family was struggling to pay his £11,600-a-year fees at the Elmhurst School for Dance and the Performing Arts.

Julie Walters, star of Billy Elliot, condemned as "appalling" the High Court ruling which dented the teenager's hopes of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

Ms Walters, who grew up in Smethwick, West Midlands, and played the ballet teacher Mrs Wilkinson in the film Billy Elliot, said she received letters from thousands of young people struggling to fulfil their dreams as actors and dancers.

The daughter of a painter and decorator, Walters became an actress only after overcoming her own battle with her mother, who was horrified that she was leaving nursing.

Sarah Youngson
Mum Sarah Youngson: 'Absolutely delighted'
She said: "It will mean that we will go back to hoity-toity actors doing terrible impressions of working class accents again. It's very sad and I find it appalling.

"The fact is that if I was starting out today, I would have no chance of becoming an actor.

"Billy Elliot did really touch me. Ballet needs to change - boys can express themselves through dance just as much as girls."

Support scheme

A spokeswoman for Birmingham Council said the Department for Education and Employment operated a music and ballet scheme which offered support to children with "outstanding" talent in music or ballet.

She said: "We understand that Jacob was also unsuccessful in gaining a place on this scheme."

She added: "Jacob could continue his dancing at weekends and holidays as an associate of Birmingham Royal Ballet while attending mainstream school in Birmingham."

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