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Thumbs up for councils

Schools believe their local authorities provide good services it is the educational equivalent of football fans praising referees. But, according to the Audit Commission, it is true - schools believe their local authorities are doing a good job.

A survey by the public spending watchdog found that, on 88 per cent of 76 questions schools were asked about their council's performance this year, they gave a rating of satisfactory or better.

"Schools are generally content with the support and services provided by their council," the commission says. Its report may come as a surprise to those who for years have heard school leaders complain about being stymied by local bureaucracy.

While nursery schools were the most positive, followed by primaries, the secondary sector did uphold the more traditional stereotype, giving negative responses to 83 per cent of the questions.

The items rated highest by the 7,232 schools who responded this summer were the support offered by councils on child protection, the primary strategy and challenging schools to perform better.

The development of self-management in schools, the effectiveness of early years provision and the quality of financial information also scored well.

At the other end of the scale, councils' ability to meet pupils' mental health needs, the accessibility of social workers responsible for looked-after children and attempts to prevent anti-social behaviour were rated the worst.

Other low-scoring services were provision for excluded pupils, for children in danger of neglect, and effectiveness in reducing the fear of crime among young people.

The inner London boroughs fared best: their schools gave them a "very good" -the most positive rating - on 57 per cent of the questions. County councils came bottom. They had "very poor" ratings - the most negative - to 64 per cent of questions.

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