LANCASHIRE - one of England's largest and most socially and economically diverse counties - has admitted that for years it took its eye off the ball in monitoring school performance.
Responsible for 176,000 pupils, the authority had a disproportionately high number of schools causing concern.
But in a report published this week, inspectors highlight a dramatic turnaround - with the council's strengths outweighing its weaknesses.
They said that the appointment in 1996 of Chris Trinnick as education director had a "significant" impact on the organisation and overall efficiency of the authority.
He introduced a more rigorous evaluation regime with decision-making based on priorities rather than custom and practice.
Inspectors said still more needed to be done and added: "Some officers have yet to fully recognise the future shift in culture and pace this requires."
Nevertheless, the percentage of failing schools in Lancashire is now well below the national average and 10 were taken off special measures in the past year.
The county, with more than 600 schools, has just one secondary, ne special and six primaries currently in special measures. A further 33 have been identified as having weaknesses. Its pupils and schools are performing at least as well as schools nationally, and continue to improve in line with, or slightly faster than, the rate nationally and in similar LEAs.
Lancashire spends above the Government's estimate of what is deemed necessary but delegates less to schools than the majority of LEAs. Primary funding at an average of pound;1,593 is pound;98 less than the English average. Secondaries receive pound;2,308 per pupil - pound;141 less than the English average, while special schools get pound;9,618 per pupil - pound;22 more than average.
school planning, target setting
identifying and securing improvements in schools causing concern
support for literacy and
development of teachers
evaluation of value for money
support for ICT in the
some key aspect of special