STANDARDS in schools in Salford, the deprived Greater Manchester borough, are rising faster than elsewhere in the country, according to inspectors.
The Office for Standards in Education report says schools benefit from a well run education department and praises the new management team that has been in place for three years.
The Labour-controlled council wins plaudits for its approach to strategic planning and for having attracted substantial regeneration cash.
However, inspectors believe that the LEA should pass a higher proportion of the education budget on to schools.
The failure to make clear the cost of services means that headteachers and governors are unable to judge whether they provide value for money, says the report.
Although, the council spends above the level recommended by the Government and schools are generally well-funded, the local authority delegates only 77.4 per cent of its education budget to schools.
Support for weak schols is costly and accounts for one-fifth of the budget in this financial year. The advisory and inspection service is expensive, but very effective, say inspectors.
Of the six schools that failed their inspections in the past six years, only one remains on the failing list. Three other schools have serious weaknesses.
Salford has begun to remove surplus places, but inspectors say action should have begun much earlier. In primary schools, 16.8 per cent of places are surplus. The figure for secondaries is 20 per cent.
According to the inspectors, Salford has effective strategies to: improve weak schools; implement its education development plan; support school management; establish partnerships with schools; liaise with other agencies; manage admissions to schools.
But inspectors were less satisfied with the: maintenance of schools buildings; management of school places; delegation of funding to schools; strategic management of special education.