Inspectors this week urged schools in north-east Lincolnshire to fight low expections in an area in desperate need of regeneration.
The area, centred on Grimsby on the south bank of the Humber estuary, has suffered sharp economic decline with the virtual end of the trawler fishing industry. Unemployment among the largely white population remains comparatively high at 6.8 per cent, compared with 4.3 per nationally.
Despite this, the unitary authority, set up in 1996, has more strengths than weaknesses.
However, inspectors said the council's strategy and structure did not give education a high enough priority. The education department is led by a relatively junior, "third-tier" officer.
The county has 79 schools and an education action zone. Overall, standards are below the national average and below those of authorities with similar levels of disadvantage.
In primaries, inspectors believe there is adequate improvement, with English at key stage 2 particularly good. Support for literacy in primaries is excellent and the numeracy strategy is also well supported.
But for 16year-olds, improvement is fitful and secondaries have had little success in reducing truancy.
Only 60 per cent of teenagers stay on at school over the age of 16, compared with 67 per cent nationally, and standards in sixth forms are low with a limited range of courses.
Inspectors said that it would be impossible for these sixth forms to introduce Curriculum 2000 satisfactorily. The council has now set up a working group to plan for 14-19 provision.
Rates of teenage pregnancy are high and a young mothers' unit provides lessons for 25 pupils for 15 hours a week.
Surviving the staff crisis, 21
* Early years
* Literacy and numeracy in primary schools
* Support for governors, financial and personnel management
* Admissions and provision of school places
* Support for schools causing concern
* Special needs
* Technical support for information andcommunications technology
* Support for secondary school improvement
* School meals
* Anti-racism measures
* Post-16 services