THE LONDON borough of Camden, one of the most deprived areas in England, this week won praise from Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools.
He lauded it as a very good local education authority, saying its achievement sent out a clear message to people determined to make excuses for ineffectual performance.
"If Camden can do well, so can other LEAs in a similar position," Mr Woodhead said.
Inspectors judged the authority, with its stark contrasts between affluence and poverty, as very well run, with many more strengths, 15 in total, than weaknesses.
Leadership was very good, planning was of a high order and while standards in schools have generally been below the national average they were higher than those for other inner-London boroughs. At Key Stage 2 they have risen markedly and sometimes exceeded national averages.
Some of the primary schools were said to have made outstanding progress. The report said: "Camden is not only a good LEA, but an improving one. There is a common sense of purpose to drive up standards and achieve excellence."
Its successes will be held up as an example to those who seek to use poverty as an excuse for failure. The proportion of pupils in Camden's 59 schools eligible for free school meals is well above the national average, as is that for children with special educational needs in mainstream classes.
Around a fifth of the borough's residents, and a third of its under-16s, come from ethnic-minority groups. Its 23,000 pupils speak 106 different languages and for around 40 per cent of them English is anadditional language.
Refugee children represent 11 per cent of primary and 7 per cent of secondary pupils and numbers are increasing.
Yet the quality of its primary schools, in overall terms, is above that of other similar London councils - Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, Haringey, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea - and above the national average.
The authority is, however, criticised for not being open enough about the cost of its services. Recommendations include improving the support given to schools to raise attendance.
Bob Litchfield, Camden's education director, said: "This is proof that Camden's children are getting a first-class education. It is a just tribute to the hard work of everyone involved."
PLAUDITS AND CRITICISMS
support for school management
work on literacy, numeracy, ICT
consultation with schools
support to improve attendance
particularly key stage 2 to 3
special needs assessment and
delegation of money to
PLAUDITS AND CRITICISMS
support for Travellers' children
primary literacy and numeracy
work with failing schools
backing for governors
partnerships with schools
arrangements for pupils temporarily without a school place
special needs statements
information and communications technology.