MORE than half of the borough’s youngsters are in schools that aren’t good enough, despite the local education authority spending £3million more over the last five years on employees.

Figures seen by the Gazette show that in 2007/2008, the budget for staff within Thurrock Council’s education department was just over £9.5million.

This year, the employee budget was just under £12.5million, despite eight out of 10 Thurrock secondary schools now being academies and independent of the council.

While the current Labour administration is spending £200,000 less on staff overall compared with two years ago when it took over the council, an extra £500,000 has been spent on employees this year.

When Cllr Oliver Gerrish took control of the education department, the Tory-set budget for employees in 2010/2011 was at £12.5million. In 2011/2012, it dropped to £11.7million, but for 2012/2013 it was £12.3million.

He said there has been a reduction in grant funding and income by around £2.5million, which makes it “appear” as though spending on staff is up.

Cllr Gerrish said: “I feel very keenly the need to rapidly improve the performance of our schools. “However, we’ve got a really strong record of improvements, both in terms of Ofsted outcomes at schools and their key stage one and two results.

“By most measures, education in Thurrock is in a much stronger place than it was two years ago.

“But we do know we now have to keep up the pressure to improve. Labour has done that with our £250,000 investment in school improvement packages of support.”

But Cllr James Halden, Conservative spokesman for education, said a rise of £3million over four years, and a £500,000 increase in the last year on staff, is not on. He said: “With Thurrock being in the bottom three for primary schools in the country and there being more academies now, Cllr Gerrish needs to say what he’s doing with that £12.5million. “We are spending more and more and Ofsted results show that, clearly, we are not getting value for money.

“Why does the council need more staff? Academies breaking away from the council means it has less to do.”