BRIDGWATER and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has welcomed a new Government funding deal for Somerset schools – but warned more needs to follow.

Ministers have confirmed funding per pupil will rise by 5.9 per cent to £4,602 next year as part of a £307,825,000 settlement for the county education authority.

But Mr Liddell-Grainger said the funding plan should be a first step towards bringing the county into line with many better-resourced urban authorities.

Further increases included in the recently-announced multi-billion pound package of schools support will see every secondary school pupil receiving a minimum of £5,000 in the succeeding year, with primary school pupils set to receive a minimum of £4,000 in the coming years.

The settlements are part of a Government initiative which will see overall spending for schools rising to £52.2 billion by 2022-23, with the programme partly aimed at specifically helping education authorities which have been historically under-resourced.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, a Conservative, said the Government’s pledge to deliver world-class education for every pupil in Somerset was laudable but added: “We still face an enormous challenge in the county in catching up on years of under-funding which continue to impact on the delivery of education in rural areas.

“This is one of the issues I have been campaigning on since I was elected and first became aware of the challenges of managing schools in areas of spare population, where many pupils face lengthy journeys to and from the classroom, and where it is frequently difficult to attract the right calibre of staff.

“These are issues which have been downplayed or overlooked for years. The result has been for settlements to favour urban education authorities which have none of the cost-related challenges of rural ones.

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“I am delighted that these discrepancies have now been noted and that the Government has decided to remedy them - but I shall not stop campaigning until I can see that all the lost ground is genuinely being made up.

“It is a tribute to all those who work in education in Somerset that despite these challenges they are delivering in most cases a very high level of service.

"There is, however, always room for improvements and I sincerely hope the additional funding will go some way to ensuring that those necessary improvements are identified and delivered.”