Vale does better in latest inspection
Inspectors criticised poor strategic management of the Vale's education service in 2001, and the local education authority's role in school improvement was rated unsatisfactory.
But three years on the council's performance in areas such as planning, budget management and school improvement has been voted "fair" by Estyn, with prospects for improvement seen as promising. The Welsh inspection agency said education in the Vale is now given more priority, spending per pupil has increased and council officers have a better relationship with headteachers.
There is also improved consultation and effective partnerships between the education department and outside agencies.
But there are still worries that the council's elected members have a limited understanding of key issues and that their scrutiny of key decisions is not effective enough. Councillors' leadership was given the lowest rating in this year's survey by the Audit Commission of schools'
perceptions of LEA services.
In 2003 it was the area furthest below the Wales average, with an overall rating of poor. Inspectors said it had improved but is still seen by schools as "less than satisfactory".
Debra Thomas, assistant head at St Richard Gwyn high, in Barry, acknowledged certain improvements in services but said the school had little contact with local councillors and more support was needed.
She said: "Councillors should make more visits to schools so they can take concerns back to the authority. At the moment teachers' goodwill is relied upon to get the best out of schools. We want the LEA to develop a vision for education and to lead all schools in the area towards that vision."
Tony Hampton, the Vale's cabinet member for education, said the progress was pleasing and that education was a core priority for the council. He said: "The report is very positive, but it also highlights issues that remain to be tackled. The council cabinet will consider these matters and will ensure that they are addressed so that the significant improvements identified by Estyn are built upon in the future."