We're a Class above the Rest; MUCH PRAISE HAS BEEN HEAPED UPON LOCAL SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION STANDARDS IN A RECENT OFSTED REPORT WITH THE ONLY CRITICISM BEING THAT OF OVER SPENDING

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EVERYONE involved in education in Coventry is today celebrating a report which salutes the work being done in the city to improve standards and the opportunities offered to children and adults alike.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) has looked closely at all the services offered by Coventry local education authority, from funding to its work with schools, out of school provision to special educational needs, admissions and management.

It was a rigorous inspection, and a daunting one for city education bosses.

They believed they were doing the right thing for the 50,000 school children in the city's 120 schools, as well as adults in community learning.

But Ofsted has so often told a different story about how a local education authority (LEA) is faring.

With more than half England's 151 local education authorities already inspected, 40 per cent are judged to have 'more weaknesses than strengths' and 13 have been judged to be 'failing' the children and schools within their remit.

Not so Coventry.

It is a show of faith by the critical inspection body in Coventry's education service, a vote of confidence which sends a strong message to parents.

Coventry LEA is, according to lead inspector Janet Mokades "...managed by able and dedicated officers who believe in consultation, open and honest discussion - but are not afraid to take hard decisions..."

She says in the praise-packed report published today: "Coventry knows its schools very well, and on a basis of shared values, works in genuine partnership with them, using their expertise and acting upon their advice.

"It carries out all its functions at least satisfactorily, many of them well and some of them exceptionally well."

The report admits there are 'some weaknesses, but not major ones' leaving education chiefs in the city rightfully proud of their efforts.

The one glaring criticism is the money the LEA spends on insurance, which at pounds 32 per pupil is, say Ofsted, 'unjustifiable', especially when compared to the English average of pounds 11 per pupil.

But even this could be a blessing in disguise.

A special meeting is being held within the next few days to discuss school insurance and try and reduce Coventry's figure. A likely outcome is a cash bonanza amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds for city schools or school support services.

The 44-page report pays tribute to the strong partnerships the LEA has forged with schools, industry, Quality Careers Service, colleges, universities, health authority, police and 'good co-operative relationships with the diocesan authorities'.

Singled out for specific praise were the Support Advisory Service, which inspectors felt offered some 'outstanding' help to schools, the Medical Support Unit, based at Sherbourne Fields School, Rowington Close, Coundon, and the council's 'effective financial management'.

The support service for children with special educational needs was described as 'one of the best' inspectors had seen.

The city's Parental Partnership, for parents of children with special educational needs, has been praised as a model of good practice.

The report stated: "Overall the local education authority meets its (special educational needs) obligations well. Parents are fully supported, both by the pre-school special educational needs service and by an outstandingly effective Parental Partnership."

Mary O' Hagan, the mother of a 12- year-old girl who is autistic, says: "The service has been very useful for me, particularly the support I received throughout the process of statementing. It has really helped me to get the best for my daughter."

Gordon Hainsworth, who carried out the inspection into SEN, said: "In Coventry, as a parent of a child with special educational needs, you have a better chance of getting the education that suits your child. …