Birmingham schools are starting to rival those in Solihull and other "leafy suburbs" for the results they achieve in GCSE exams, education chiefs claimed yesterday.
The authority is already significantly ahead when ranked beside 15 other areas it has been traditionally compared to including core cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol and Sheffield.
Cabinet Member for Education Les Lawrence (Con Northfield) claimed results for this year revealed yesterday showed it no longer deserved to be compared to these "statistical neighbours".
The authority saw 59 per cent of its 16-year-olds gaining the benchmark five or more A* to C grades at GCSE.
The proportion was eight percentage points above the average for its statistical neighbours - which share similar levels of deprivation - and two per cent above the national average.
It was only eight per cent behind Solihull’s pass rate.
Mr Lawrence said: "We have not only topped the table among comparable authorities, we compare favourably with authorities we weren’t able to compare ourselves with traditionally in parts of the country that have always achieved a high rate.
"I’m talking about the leafy suburbs of Buckinghamshire and Solihull just across the border."
The proportion of pupils hitting the GCSE benchmark has gone up from 41 per cent in 2001, a 17.9 per cent improvement rate which is almost double the national average rise of nine per cent.
Coun Lawrence said the "tremendous improvements" were down to the hard work of pupils and all those involved in schools across the city.
"I would like to pay tribute not only to the youngsters who have achieved significant success, but the teaching profession and the support assistants who have brought about this considerable change in outcomes."
He highlighted as particularly noteworthy progress made among traditionally low performing groups.
Among black Caribbean boys the five A* to C rate was 25 per cent in 2000 but now stands at 43 per cent.
Among Bangladeshi boys it rose from 24 per cent to 54 per cent during the period and from 18 per cent to 45 per cent among Pakistani boys.
"It shows what is happening in our schools, particularly in inner city areas, is very successful," Coun Lawrence added.
However, the proportion of youngsters gaining the benchmark target at GCSE drops massively to 41 per cent if the figures are analysed to include those who took English and maths.
The authority also relies heavily on the use of vocational equivalent subjects such GNVQs to achieve its pass rate.
More than half - 54 per cent of 16-year-olds - took a vocational subject as well as more academic GCSE qualifications.
Nearly a third - 31 per cent – took the full GNVQ intermediate award which can give four GCSE A* to C equivalent in one subject.
In all, 26 per cent of all the A* to C grades achieved were from vocational courses.
The authority also saw a decline in performance in tests taken by seven-year-olds at key stage one, which it partly blamed on an increase in new arrivals into the city with English as an additional language.
Performance at this level also compared unfavourably with its statistical neighbours. In reading tests, the authority saw a two per cent drop to 78 per cent of seven-year-olds meeting the required level, compared to a national average of 84 per cent, placing the authority 12 out of its 15 comparable authorities.
For writing, there was an eight per cent drop to 74 per cent compared to 81 per cent nationally, also placing it 12th in the rank.
And in maths there was a three per cent drop to 85 per cent compared to a national average of 90 per cent - second from bottom among the comparable authorities’ league. Girls continued to outperform boys in GCSE attainment, with 64 per cent gaining the benchmark target compared to 54 for girls.
For A-levels, the proportion of youngsters gaining one or more A to C grade rose to percentage points to 80 per cent.
The average point score per student was 766 - roughly equal to two As and a C. The authority pledged to focus efforts on closing the attainment gap that still persisted among certain ethnic groups, including white boys.