Town politicials say ‘chronic underfunding’ has led to secondary school pupils who come from poorer households in Hartlepool lagging more than two years behind their peers nationwide.
Think tank The Education Policy Institute found in Hartlepool the gap academically compared to non-disadvantaged pupils nationally is 24.1 months.
While in wealthier places such as Kensington and Chelsea in London, disadvantaged pupils are actually performing ahead of non-disadvantaged pupils nationally by two and a half months.
Hartlepool politicians have blamed ‘chronic underfunding’ from an ‘unsympathetic’ government for contributing to the lag.
But the Department for Education says schools in Hartlepool will get an extra £6.6million this year through the pupil premium to help close the gap.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said: “These figures are astonishing, but are not surprising when you factor in that London gets on average £360m more in funding for education than the North East.
“There is no doubt that local authorities and schools in the region are chronically underfunded and in the case of Hartlepool, where funding for children’s education and social services is reaching crisis point, although we don’t top the table in this particular instance it doesn’t mean our children aren’t lagging behind.”
Mr Hill praised Hartlepool Borough Council in funding holiday hunger schemes and headteachers ‘phenomenal’ initiatives to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But he added: “The truth is that while Government funding formulas remain as they are our kids will continue to fall behind academically and that is simply not good enough or acceptable.
“Our young people deserve a much better start in life.”
Councillor Brenda Harrison, chair of Hartlepool’s Children’s Services Committee, met Mr Hill last week to ask for his support over special educational needs funding and he pledged to raise it in Parliament.
Coun Harrison said: “Though this is a national problem, in Hartlepool we are seeing the results of education cuts, years of deprivation, the roll out of Universal Credit, continued high unemployment and a general lack of empathy or even sympathy from Central Government.
“The schools in our town are doing an excellent job of delivering quality education under very difficult circumstances and this will only get even more difficult with continued cuts.
“Education – and all the areas it covers – needs resourcing. Our children do deserve the best start in life, as Mike says, and they have a right to the best quality of education.
“They are the future and we must look after them.”
The Department for Education said under the national funding formula, Hartlepool schools will attract 1.3% more money per pupil by 2019-20, compared to 2017-18, equivalent to £60 per pupil, or £900,000 in total.
It added Hartlepool’s 2019-20 funding per pupil will be £4,752 compared to £4,685 nationally.
A spokesperson said: “We’re making sure young people have the best possible education, no matter where they live or their background.
“School funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion by 2020 – 50% more in real terms per pupil than in 2000 – and we are continuing to ensure this is distributed fairly across the country based on schools’ individual needs, putting an end to the previous unfair system.
“As well as the new, fairer approach to national school funding we continue to provide extra funding for disadvantaged children through the pupil premium, worth more than £2.4bn this year alone.
“This year, schools in Hartlepool will receive an extra £6.6million through the pupil premium, and we look to them to use it effectively.”