Although Ofsted recognised an overall improvement in Bradford's education system in the last two years, the new report is not without criticism.

Inspectors say much of the remaining problems lie in the business contract between Bradford Council and Education Bradford, which "did not provide adequately for the scale of the problems".

Education Bradford invested heavily in the first few years in the hope of raising attainment rates early on and this should have led to less funding being needed in the later years of

the ten-year contract, along with a profit for the company.

However, attainment levels failed to reach those expected and Ofsted says "similar levels of support to those presently provided will be required for some time to come".

Education Bradford and the Council simply hadn't expected to spend the kind of sums now required.

However, the report does highlight some of the LEA's strengths including:

l significant improvements in the special educational needs service and improved attendance

l effective support to improve pupil behaviour

l a closing of the attainment gap and improvement rates.

Council executive member for education, Councillor Dale Smith, said: "Although we are closing the attainment gap, the rate of improvement is slower than we would like. The Council and Education Bradford are already working with schools to try to find ways of addressing this.

"We have made it our priority to work with our local and national education partners to find ways of speeding this up."

Council leader, Councillor Margaret Eaton, added: "We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we improve the education opportunities for all our young people."

The Ofsted report praised the leadership of elected members, senior Council officers and staff of Education Bradford but picked up on "considerable disharmony" between the company and the unions. It called on all groups to work together to ensure pupils get the education they deserve.

But it also highlighted a long-standing failure to address deficits in some schools as "unsatisfactory" - in November it was revealed that 12 of 28 secondary schools and 29 primaries out of 159 were in the red.

Inspectors also criticised Education Bradford's work in helping under-performing schools and identified the fact there are more schools in special measures now than there were two years ago.

Among the concerns in primary schools was that nearly half are failing to reach the floor target for maths at Key Stage 2. It also said support for school leadership was unsatisfactory.

But Mark Pattison, managing director of Education Bradford, remained optimistic: "The LEA Ofsted report confirms our view that Bradford has turned the corner. There have been major improvements in Bradford's schools: standards and attendance are both rising; permanent exclusions are falling and the number of schools in special measures and serious weaknesses has significantly reduced.

"Many challenges remain, but the improvements in performance and standards suggest that Bradford is now well-positioned for further, sustainable improvements."

l Mr Pattison hasn't stepped down, as reported in yesterday's T&A, but has announced he will be taking on a national role.