Extra cash for local schools, a welcome Christmas present says MP

Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose has welcomed the government’s announcement that North Somerset Council will receive an extra £1million funding for school places but has warned that it won’t solve the funding postcode lottery that pupils in North Somerset face.

The extra money has been provided by the government as a one off payment to help the local council provide enough primary school places for all the children in North Somerset until 2011. While it should make a difference in the short term, the one-off payment does not provide a sustainable solution to the funding gap between pupils in North Somerset and neighbouring authorities.

Despite North Somerset receiving 3.7% more funding per pupil this academic year, pupils in Weston and the villages remain some of the worst funded in the country. North Somerset received £3,895 per pupil this year, £138 less per pupil than in neighbouring Bath and North East Somerset, and £641 less than Bristol. John Penrose has been calling for the government to end the postcode lottery and increase funding for children in North Somerset so that they receive the same funding as their peers in neighbouring authorities. Earlier in the year he presented a 600-name petition calling on Gordon Brown to end the postcode lottery.

John said: “This extra funding is a welcome Christmas present for Weston and our schools but we might not be so lucky in future. It’s a one-off payment which is only meant to last until 2011, rather than a long-term answer to the funding gap.

“It also does nothing to end the funding postcode lottery that the government has allowed to fester either. All children, no matter where they live, deserve a fair deal but North Somerset is receiving less funding per pupil than neighbouring Bath and North East Somerset and Bristol. After a lot of pushing, including taking the fight to Gordon Brown’s own doorstep, I’m glad that the government have started to listen and increased education funding in North Somerset this year, but they’ve still got a long way to go to close the gap.

“I will continue to push the government to close the gap. No matter where they live, children with the same needs should have access to the same level of teachers’ attention, activities and equipment. Children, Parents and teachers in North Somerset want and deserve a fairer funding deal, and if the government delivered it, that would be the best Christmas present of all.”

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