SCHOOLS in Sunderland will share nearly £4.4million to help educate the most deprived children.
The city is receiving the Pupil Premium cash from the Government, with Durham getting £6.8million and South Tyneside being given £2.8million for the school year 2011-12.
The most disadvantaged pupils will benefit from an extra £58 each after the Department for Education’s decision to increase the Pupil Premium to £488.
Schools receive the extra cash for every child eligible for free school meals, with the aim that youngsters who need it most will benefit from the funding.
In Sunderland the secondary school with the highest proportion of children (45.3 per cent) eligible for the Pupil Premium is Academy 360, in Pennywell, which will be awarded £223,992.
The primary school with the most children eligible (66.3 per cent) is Southwick Community Primary School, which will be given £94,184.
Figures show that 27 per cent of pupils on free school meals get five good GCSEs, compared with 54 per cent of non-free school meals pupils.
Trisha Stoker, headteacher at Southwick Community Primary, said any extra funding is always appreciated and it is good to see the situation of children in poverty being recognised.
But she added: “The situation is massive and if we are going to really tackle the inequalities for children and the issues that schools like mine have, then the Pupil Premium is just a start. It needs to be a long-term commitment.”
Mrs Stoker said the money is used to improve the lives of the children from things such as transport to activities, additions for after-school clubs and mostly in extra classroom and teaching support.
Mike Foster, Sunderland City Council’s deputy executive director of children’s services, said: “The Government’s Pupil Premium funding is designed to support focused intervention for particular students to help meet their individual educational needs.
“As a city we welcome all supportive initiatives which lead to a personalised approach for our children.”
Coun Robert Oliver, Sunderland Conservative spokesman for education, said of the Pupil Premiun: “It will significantly benefit all disadvantaged areas, including Sunderland, and signals a commitment to ensure funds are aimed at the poorest pupils who need most help with the value of the pupil premium set to rise in future years.”
But Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “This is not new money and the overall funding for schools has not been increased.
“The proof of the pudding is whether schools in Sunderland are actually getting bigger budgets to spend on their pupils.
“I know this isn’t the case for many schools, and many are under increased pressure because cuts to local authorities mean they aren’t able to supply schools with the assistance they have in the past.
“In this context, the pupil premium is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”