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Cheers as authority gets straight As and Bs

A set of seven As and three Bs, and nothing below that, would delight any student accumulating Higher passes. When it applies to the education department in North Lanarkshire, the reaction matches that of any celebrating candidate.

A best value study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the independent auditors, has given the authority top pass marks for the way it runs its education service. It represents a significant achievement for a council that in recent years has been lambasted for its handling of other services.

Charlie Gray, education convener, said: "We are pleased but not surprised. It is my view that we are one of the best education authorities in Scotland and in fairness to the staff, they have tried very hard to keep ahead of the game.

"I can see a time in a few years when our youngsters will be well above the base in terms of exam results despite our areas of deprivation. They are responding tremendously well."

The authority will be one of the last to be put through HM Inspectors' mill over the next four years but councillors are confident it will pass that test.

Michael O'Neill, director of education, said the auditors used virually the same format as HMI for judging performance, but deployed an A-D rating instead of 1-4.

North Lanarkshire received As for leadership, best use of people and assets, sound financial control and reporting, support for continuous improvement, monitoring and control of overall performance, and public performance reporting.

The marginally lower B passes were for understanding the needs and expectations of stakeholders, the way it carries out best value reviews and its detailed plans for achieving goals. There are no recommendations for improvement.

Mr O'Neill said: "This is the third highly positive report arising from another external examination of our work and it's very good news indeed. It provides further evidence that the education department is indeed 'Aiming Higher' and is providing a service of the highest quality. All associated with the education service deserve great credit."

Mr Gray, however, believes the number of audits departments are subject to is costly and time-consuming. "At the moment, they are in fashion. But there should be other and easier ways of investigating things and making judgments," he said.

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