AMBITIOUS and far reaching measures have been pledged to improve secondary education standards in South Gloucestershire.

The steps will be taken after just 13 per cent of the district's secondary schools were rated outstanding compared to the national average of 23 per cent and a South West average of 21 per cent.

Councillors have endorsed the recommendations of an independent report that highlighted the need for urgent action to raise the quality of both teaching and learning in the area's schools.

The report by a group of education experts was commissioned by South Gloucestershire Council's children and young people's committee last year in response to evidence of a widening gap between attainment levels in its secondary schools compared to the national average.

It sets out 14 recommendations, including the creation of a district-wide education partnership of schools, the local authority, colleges, local employers and others to make the changes required.

Other key recommendations endorsed by the committee include taking steps to cut surplus capacity in its secondary schools.

The surplus level currently stands at 16.6 per cent, which the report's authors described as a "significant factor" in the under-performance of local schools which had to be addressed.

They further called for a greater emphasis on technical and employment skills, along with the creation of a new formal partnership between comprehensives to promote more effective collaboration and joint working in key areas such as sixth form provision.

Measures to improve the move of pupils from primary to secondary education through the development of a year five to eight "learning pathway" were also suggested.

Council officers will now work with schools and other partners to draw up detailed plans setting out how the recommendations can be implemented.

Committee chairman, Councillor Ian Blair, said: “The Education Commission’s independent report has highlighted the significant challenges we face and difficult decisions we must take if we are to deliver the high quality secondary education that our young people deserve."

Recently two local authority-run secondary schools, together with an academy, were told to improve by education watchdog Ofsted.

Chipping Sodbury School and Marlwood School in Alveston, along with Yate International Academy, were rated at level three, a grade which requires improvement.

Meanwhile, proposals to consult on the closure of the Grange School in Warmley from 2016 have been approved by the children and young people's committee.

The school had been placed in special measures last year and there were unsuccessful attempts to find a sponsor that would turn it into an academy .

The council will also pursue funding for a smaller specialist studio school - a new kind of state school model for students aged 14 to 19 that will equip them with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to find employment and succeed in life and work.