BLACKBURN'S Education Action Zone has been praised for raising private sector cash and spending it wisely.

The commendation comes from Whitehall's chief financial watchdog the National Audit Office.

In a report today the NAO studies the operation of the first 25 EAZs created by the government to draw in private sector expertise and cash.

As ministers announced another 14 of the zones across England, the report expresses concern that the existing zones had between them only raised half of the initial target for private capital -- £1.3million against £2.56million.

Blackburn with Darwen was one of the most successful, raising £149,000 against a target from the business community of £145,800.

Only Newham in London, which raised £400,000 against £145,800 did better.

Based around the Shadsworth, Whitebirk and Highercroft areas the EAZ it involves 22 primary and secondary schools.