In 2002, 11-year-olds' scores put Bury in 14th place in the local authority league tables. But by 2004, 91 per cent of 11-year-olds were expected to reach level 4 in English - a jump of 12 percentage points - with only the four primaries in the Isles of Scilly expected to get more.
An Office for Standards in Education report published this month found that the key stage 2 target for Bury was "unrealistic". The report praised schools and the authority's pupil assessments, but found: "The gap between the LEAs' and the schools' aggregated target has grown. This is not due to lack of effort, but because the target was set too high."
Now the authority has welcomed the shift towards schools setting targets.
Sheila Gaskell, school effectiveness officer for Bury, said: "The 91 per cent target we were given had undermined the process we were going through with schools."