Wirral's leap forward
Although the attainment of children is below the national average when they start primary school, they are above average by the time they leave at 11 and half go on to achieve five or more A*-C grades at GCSE.
A focus on speaking, listening and drama has helped to support pupils' understanding of what they read and write.
The "flair and enthusiasm" of the council's numeracy team was singled out for particular praise.
However, the council has not made the same progress in information and communications technology, with too little support for teaching and learning.
Despite having more children with special needs than many other areas, the authority hasalso failed to implement the Government's policy of increasing the proportion of such pupils in mainstream schools.
It was also criticised for providing inspection and advisory services to schools that may not need their help and for not doing enough to promote school autonomy.
Nevertheless, inspectors found "a very positive picture" overall and credited the LEA with having recognised that the success of schools is related to good leadership and management.
Numeracy and literacy
Personnel and financial services
Support for weak schools
Support for heads and governors
Strategy including that for special needs
Support for ICT learning
Making most efficient use of inspection advisory services
Support for attendance and access for vulnerable pupils