THE director of education in East Ayrshire has become the latest to receive a glowing HMI endorsement of his stewardship.
The HMI report on John Mulgrew's authority has given it seven "very good" grades and four rated as "good" in the 11 quality indicators the inspectorate uses to judge the effectiveness of authorities.
This puts East Ayrshire in second place along with South Ayrshire, behind North Lanarkshire, as one of the three most successful authorities inspected so far.
The report described Mr Mulgrew as having a challenging remit in charge of both education and social work. But it continues: "His considerable experience in and knowledge of education, allied to his clarity of vision and purpose, enabled him to give strong and dynamic leadership to the development of education services within the council.
"His ability to motivate, delegate effectively and encourage initiatives was widely recognised and appreciated . . . The director was a prominent and highly respected figure."
Inspectors also singled out Mr Mulgrew's "productive" working relationships with Tommy Farrell, East Ayrshire's veteran education committee chairman, and with David Montgomery, the chief executive who was a senior depute director of education in the former Strathclyde Region. Mr Farrell was "energetic and enthusiastic" in the cause of education.
Further praise goes to Graham Short, head of service for quality improvement, whose "ability and helpfulness were widely appreciated". A demanding workload "had not impaired the effectiveness of his outstanding contribution".
Kay Gilmour, the department's head of community support, is commended for a "highly effective" contribution which is widely recognised and appreciated.
Mr Farrell welcomed the report and said that the council is particularly proud of the "holistic approach to education, incorporating the arts, sports, languages and enterprise education into everyday learning".
The East Ayrshire report confirms once again the key role headteachers can play in persuading HMI whether an authority is adding value. Heads and staff interviewed during the inspection "gave strong approval for the clear leadership provided by the director and his team".
They were "highly regarded by school staff and parents".
Heads also acknowledged the good links with other departments of the council. Schools had a high degree of involvement in policy development and most heads said the authority was good at backing up its policies with clear procedures for implementing them.
Other strengths were very good management of resources, the prominence of councillors in celebrating pupils' achievements, very good arrangements for communication and consultation and high-quality support for the pre-school and primary years.
The main areas for improvement noted by HMI were in the technical areas of monitoring the quality of schools' work and in service planning which was described as "good and improving".
The performance of East Ayrshire's schools was mixed. Attainment among 5-14 pupils was getting better in reading and writing but the rate of improvement was lower for reading and maths than the national average and in comparable authorities.
Schools were found to be doing better in improving Standard grade performance than those in similar authorities but not so well in the improvement rate for three or more Higher passes.