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Torvill and Dean test sidestepped

Torvill and Dean may have become role models for millions when they gained the first perfect score on their way to an ice-skating gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.

But they make a poor benchmark for judging whether a talented child should win council funding, the local government watchdog has ruled.

Nottinghamshire County Council has been criticised by ombudsman Patricia Thomas for the way it conducted an appeal by a young dancer for funding to attend a classical ballet boarding school.

The 11-year-old applied in March 1996 for a discretionary grant from the county's Pounds 60,000 boarding school budget for "exceptional cases".

But "Anna" (her real name is not revealed) was apparently not exceptional enough. And when her mother appealed, the council had no process in place for a review and had to set up a panel from scratch. It did not meet until after the start of the school year.

The ombudsman heard the panel had no formal way of assessing whether children were "exceptional". Instead, on the advice of an officer, councillors applied the "Torvill and Dean test" - saying applicants had to be "world class".

Anna already had a string of awards at the highest level when she won a place at the boarding school. A raft of testimonials talked of her "obvious innate aptitude for performance", her rare ability "to express emotion through dance" and her "considerable potential" to become a professional dancer.

Nottinghamshire has already agreed Mrs Thomas's recommendation to reconsider the case and pay Anna's mother Pounds 300. Its policy will be reviewed at a later date.

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