POOR children in West Somerset stand less chance of getting a good education and career than anywhere else in England, it was announced this week.

For the second year running, the district was ranked 326th out of 326 in the social mobility index which ranks the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In January the government announced £6m of extra funding for West Somerset, as it became one of six target 'opportunity areas'.

Local leaders expressed their disappointment with the result but said work had been undertaken and were confident the area is heading in the right direction.

Paul Rushforth, chief executive of the West Somerset Academies Trust said the aim was to use the money to ensure West Somerset becomes a world class education system.

He said: "This is a generational shift, not a quick fix. Standards of education are rising rapidly - children in West Somerset were in the top 15 per cent at GCSE level thanks to great leadership at the West Somerset College.

"Children in Key Stage 2 outperformed children in primary schools and Danesfield was the highest achieving middle school in the county."

Chairman of the West Somerset Opportunity Area board Fiona McMillan said there was a plan in place with ambitious targets and work was well underway.

She said: “Social mobility is a complex issue spanning generations and influenced by many different factors – it will take time to make an impact and success will be measured over years.

“Our priorities cover everything from the support that children get in their early years to preparing young people for the world of work, expanding their horizons and aspirations along the way.

“West Somerset has a great a quality of life and we have every confidence that in time the Opportunity Area work will improve the outcomes for the area’s young people”.

West Somerset Council leader Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew said he was 'disappointed' with the ranking but said: "We have an ageing population, lack a major urban centre and have few large employers. Issues that affect our economy include the high cost of fuel, high house prices - especially within Exmoor; low incomes and lack of access to higher education." He said the council was not complacent and was carrying out a number of employment and skills initiatives.