SCHOOLS across Lancashire are to benefit from a £47million boost in order to meet demand for school places.

Secondary schools in Pendle will be allocated £4.8million over the next two years with Ribble Valley schools getting a boost of £2.4million for 2018/19.

The money will also be used to maintain school buildings over the next three years.

But Pendle Council leader Mohammed Iqbal warned the money was a 'drop in the ocean' and would do little to address the severe shortage in primary school places.

Although the secondary school population is at its lowest level for some years, it could rise by more than 9,000 pupils over the next five years while council chiefs warn 'unprecedented levels of house building' are putting pressure on primary schools.

Education bosses have anticipated a shortfall in both Pendle and the Ribble Valley with the primary school population across Lancashire currently at its highest level for more than 10 years.

Cllr Susie Charles, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said the investment was wonderful news.

She said: "It means that we can provide the right number of school places across the county, that popular schools can expand to meet demand and that we can keep our schools in good condition.

"We are fortunate to have excellent schools in our county, providing a first-rate education, and this investment will help us to build on our current success."

She said cash would be targeted at schools in areas of future high demand, at alternative provision schools to address 'serious suitability and condition issues' as well as additional places.

Lord Street Primary School in Colne will get £1.5million to deal with dry rot, while Heasandford Primary School in Burnley will get £500,000 and Peel Park Primary School in Accrington will get £120,000.

There is also a drive to improve access for pupils with disabilities and targeted investment to replace temporary buildings with permanent buildings.

Although the birthrate in Pendle has fallen, migration and planned housing developments are expected to put pressure on places.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: "I welcome this much needed investment.

"Many of our secondary schools are already oversubscribed and we need to ensure we can provide the best possible facilities for future generations."

Cllr Iqbal, member for Bradley, in Nelson, said it was 'long overdue' but cash was needed for primary school places as well.

He said: "The pressure on primary schools is significant. There is a desperate need for places.

"In my ward there are children going to school in Earby and families being split up. £4.8million is a drop in the ocean."

A number of areas have been identified as 'hotspots' due to significant shortfall including Longridge and Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley, Colne and Barrowford in Pendle and Rawtenstall in Rossendale.

In the Ribble Valley there is significant demand due to population rises and housing developments.

More than 100 places will be added in Langho and Whalley by 2019 and a potential 70 at Barrow Primary School in 2019 which is under consultation.

It is predicted by January 2022 there will be a shortfall of 64 secondary school places in Pendle, 42 places in Rossendale and 474 in the Ribble Valley.

Meanwhile Hyndburn is expected to have a surplus of 822 places and Burnley 173 places.

Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley, described the cash as a 'huge boost' while Cllr Ken Hind, leader of Ribble Valley Council, said: "It was made clear in the election manifesto that there would be more money for schools. This shows it has come through and it is very good news."

Sam Ud-din, Lancashire division secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said: "When you look at the school budget it is £800million a year.

"If you inject £47million over a period of time that is a small increase by the time you have spread it across the area.

"It is a start but just a start. That amount of money needs to be put in every year so that all the increases in student numbers can be planned for."

Education bosses also anticipate there will be a rise in the need for alternative provision due to a higher number of permanent exclusions, youngsters diagnosed with mental health needs and referrals.