South Tyneside Local Education Authority has made "impressive improvement in a short time" and the Council as a whole has a "new and purposeful strategic direction".
These are among the main comments of Government inspectors from the Office For Standards in Education (OFSTED) in their second report on the effectiveness of the LEA.
Two years ago South Tyneside was criticised for lack of effective strategic management and for having an inadequate response to new Government education policy.
Now all that has changed and the OFSTED report published today (January 29th) shows that the previous serious weaknesses have all been addressed robustly and there has been much change for the better.
The inspectors say that education "has a clear and prominent place in the Council's priorities". Better financial strategies have increased spending on education. Another "crucial development has been improvement in the management and effectiveness of the education service and the LEA is now playing a part in raising standards in the schools".
OFSTED say that "many education functions that were weak are now satisfactory and many that were only just satisfactory two years ago are now strongly so". Corporate governance of the LEA is now "highly satisfactory".
Particular strengths highlighted in the report are support for school improvement, promotion of social inclusion, school attendance, raising standards, improved planning, better leadership and effective partnerships. Also praised are improvements in health and safety, welfare and child protection and support for looked after children.
Inspectors say that a small number of functions were not satisfactory, including effectiveness of management support services and some aspects of Special Education Needs support.
The report acknowledges the decisive action to tackle the issue of surplus places. "Faced with an unrelenting decline in the number of pupils over the coming years, the LEA has taken decisive action in both the primary and secondary sectors to tackle surplus capacity. It has responded vigorously to the recommendation at the last inspection to draw up a plan to remove surplus places."
Overall the OFSTED report praises the LEA's determination to improve and notes that much change has taken place and more is possible. The report has been very well received by the Council's Lifelong Learning and Leisure Directorate and it will be distributed and discussed among staff, teachers, governors and councillors as well as other partners in education.
Councillor Ron Reynolds, Lead Member for Lifelong Learning and Leisure said today: "The OFSTED report clearly endorses and supports the massive changes which have been made. It acknowledges the many improvements in the way we organise and deliver our education services. There has been a remarkable turn around and it is evident by the results which are now coming through that South Tyneside is now forging ahead with commitment to put education at the heart of all the changes for a better future."
Councillor Paul Waggott, Leader of the Council, said: "Starting from the lowest point two years ago, the Council has taken swift and effective action to bring about the changes necessary to deliver the best education for all our children. Our organisation and policies now fully support a much more modern education service, more focussed than ever before on meeting the needs of everyone who uses the education service on South Tyneside."
The OFSTED inspectors also make a number of recommendations to improve the strategy for school improvement, improvements in aspects of special education needs management support service, better promotion of social inclusion and continuing to improve strategic planning with schools.
"The OFSTED report concludes: "Given the improvements made so far, and the structures and procedures now in place to bring about further change for the better, we are convinced of the LEA's capacity to act on the recommendations and to improve further."