THE numbers of school children from poor backgrounds making the grade has risen — putting Bolton in the top 50 authorities in the country for the achievements of its disadvantaged pupils.

Figures revealed by the government’s education watchdog showed that 40 per cent of children eligible for free school meals achieved five or more top GCSEs including English and maths, placing it 46th out of 150 authorities. The pass rate is above the national average.

The statistics were highlighted in Ofsted’s report to show how the new pupil premium — extra money to give to schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils — is “narrowing the gap”.

In 2013/14 schools in Bolton received £11 million in pupil premium and this will rise to £14 million in the next academic year.

Education chiefs said schools had made “excellent progress” in narrowing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.

Cllr Kevin McKeon, Bolton Council’s Cabinet member for Schools, said: “I know the hard work schools in the borough are doing to make sure the least advantaged children get as much encouragement as possible, and the local authority is working with headteachers.

“I think this is a tribute to the level of co-operation and collaboration that takes place in the Bolton family of schools.

"Each school works together to support each other and share good practice which contributes to the achievements of children.”

Bolton had 652 pupils sitting GCSEs in 2013 who were eligible for free school meals, and 40 per cent of those achieving the grade.

Of those who are not eligible for free school meals, 61 per cent achieved five or more good GCSEs including the core subjects.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “We are committed to narrowing the gap in Bolton and will continue to strive to raise the achievements of all our pupils, and as our recent GCSE results show our young people are delivering some fantastic results.”