SCHOOLS in Oldham where standards have been improving faster than the national rate have won praise from inspectors.
Overall, school performance in the borough, which lies to the north-east of Manchester and suffers from considerable deprivation, is below the national average.
But between 1998 and 2000, inspectors said improvement at key stages 2 and 4 had been particularly rapid.
Oldham recorded the seventh best improvement in key stage 2 English results over those years, from 59 to 73 per cent, and the 13th best at key stage 2 maths, from 53 to 70 per cent.
Improvement at GCSE has accelerated since 1995 and provisional results for 2000 show a large improvement in the percentage of pupils getting five or more top grades, from 39.9 per cent in 1999 to 42.4 per cent.
Inspectors said the council's educaton development plan was effective, consultation with schools was good and that the borough had a good working partnership with external agencies. The authority performed almost all of its functions at least satisfactorily.
Overall, the leadership given by members, the chief education officer, and other senior officers to Oldham's 101 primary, 15 secondary and seven special schools is sound.
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* support for numeracy, literacy, early years
* planning for school places
* strong partnership with schools
* investment in new schools
* support for governors and school management
* meeting statutory requirements on statements of special need
* support for attendance, behaviour and children in