TWO schools have been rewarded for breaking down barriers to ensure children of all backgrounds get the best education.

St Francis CE Primary School, in Newton Aycliffe, and Bishop Barrington School, in Bishop Auckland, have been named the best North-East primary school and secondary school, respectively, in the Pupil Premium Awards.

Both schools are now in the running for a national award and the chance to win up to £10,000.

The awards, organised by the Department for Education and Times Education Supplement, recognise the innovative ways schools use Pupil Premium funding to close the gap between disadvantaged children and their classmates.

Since 2011, the Government has given primary and secondary schools a grant for every child eligible for free school meals or who has been in care for six months or over.

This was later extended to every child who has been eligible for a free school meal at any point in the last six years.

The figure now stands at £953 per pupil.

Jane Wilkinson, headteacher at St Francis CE Primary School, said: “This is a great achievement for the school. It really demonstrates how strong a team we have here and how focused we are on ensuring every child can be the best they can be.

“It is not just about me and what I have done. It has about the whole school.”

To date, the school has used the Pupil Premium to fund trips to museums and universities to give youngsters an insight into the further education options available to them.

Enriching guest speakers, sports people and arts organisations are also brought in to inspire youngsters.

On the annual Believe and Achieve Day, meanwhile, local businesses come in to showcase career paths.

It has also invested into teaching support, including employing social learning mentor, Emma Pennington, who works with children and their families to overcome emotional barriers that prevent children from reaching their potential.

And, in September, the school will reduce class sizes to 21 pupils by introducing an additional class.

Mrs Wilkinson said: “The children are now coming up with suggestions of how we could spend the prize money if we win. So far, they have suggested improving the garden area and a trip to London."

The national awards ceremony will take place at the Corinthian Hall in London on Wednesday, June 25.