The education watchdog has told a failing local authority it is making “significant improvement” in supporting schools.

Ofsted found Middlesbrough Council’s school support service was ineffective in January 2014.

Schools Week also revealed last week Middlesbrough was one of four Labour councils which retained its majority in local elections, despite being judged as failing by Ofsted.

But a report released today praised the council for taking “big strides to help pupils in the borough get a better education”.

Nick Hudson, Ofsted director for North East, Yorkshire and Humber, said: “I am really pleased that things have got much better since then.

“After the Ofsted report early last year Middlesbrough Council made school improvement a priority.

“Councillors, senior local authority officials, headteachers and other school leaders have worked well together.

“Their results are impressive. Pupils are on the whole doing better at primary school while improvement rates in the borough’s secondary schools are greater than the national average, for poorer pupils as well as their wealthier peers.

“That is what parents and pupils want and deserve.”

Inspectors visited from February 2nd to 6th. They found the authority had strengthened its school improvement arrangements, including setting up the School Effectiveness Strategy and prioritising improvement work on the weaker outcomes at key stage 4.

Ofsted said attainment at key stage 1 and 2 continues to improve with pupils’ progress outcomes in key stage 2 improved at a faster rate than nationally in reading, writing and mathematics. The gap in performance between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is narrowing, inspectors added.

The watchdog will now continue to monitor the local authority’s performance on a regular basis before deciding on any future inspection activity.

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