Children's services and education are good in three-quarters of local authorities, a new national assessment by inspectors has declared.
Ofsted and the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) have produced annual performance assessments for local authorities in the past, with the two organisations rating councils' work in education and social care for young people separately.
This year the two inspectorates have also graded the authorities' work in children's services and their ability to improve their work with young people in the future. The change reflects the increasing integration of education and other services for children at local authority level.
Four local authorities - Shropshire, Worcestershire, Tower Hamlets and Kingston upon Thames - received the top grades in all of the areas relating to young people.
Services are graded from one to four according to how well they meet minimum standards: four means they are very good, three good, two adequate and one inadequate.
Overall, just 8 per cent received the top grade for children's services, while 67 per cent gained a three, 24 per cent a two and 1 per cent of authorities the lowest mark.
Bottom grades were given to North-east Lincolnshire for both education and children's services.
A North-east Lincolnshire council spokesman described the poor rating for its children's services as "bizarre".
He said that the authority had received good grades for both its social care of children and its capacity to improve.
"It suggests the children's services rating is heavily weighted to what is happening in schools and doesn't reflect the other work we are doing," the council's spokesman said.
Letters from the inspectorates to every authority give detailed descriptions of their work with children.
They are divided into reports on how well the authorities help young people to be healthy, to stay safe, to "enjoy and achieve", to make a positive contribution to society and to achieve economic well-being.
Data analysed by the inspectors ranged from truancy figures at local schools to the number of drug-related deaths of young people in the authority's area.
In the London borough of Tower Hamlets, covering part of the East End, and an area with large numbers of ethnic minority families, aspects of children's services which were praised included the local authority's support for teenagers who were not in education and employment, primary school test results, and its innovative work with mosques and African churches to promote child protection.
David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, said local authorities had been in a "period of transition", as many were only beginning to establish children's services directorates.
* A new job section dedicated to posts in children's services starts in next week's TES. (*dec9) APA gradings and letters to authorities are at www.ofsted.gov.uk
LONDON BOROUGHS IN TOP FOUR
Top ratings in all children's categories (education, children's services, social care for children, and capacity to improve services for young people): Shropshire, Tower Hamlets, Worcestershire, and Kingston upon Thames.
Other top ratings in education and children's services: Gateshead, Havering, Kensington and Chelsea, York.
Remaining top ratings in education: Bury, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, City of London, Lewisham, Liverpool, Newham, North Yorkshire, Surrey, Warrington, Windsor Maidenhead, and Wokingham.
Only meeting minimum standards in all children's categories: Bristol City, Cumbria, Medway, Southend.
Rated as poor: North-east Lincolnshire (education, children's services), Isle of Wight (education), Sandwell (social care for young, children's services) and Isles of Scilly (capacity to improve).