A squad of 'super heads' is to be sent into Oxfordshire's under-performing schools in a new bid to improve GCSE results.

Oxfordshire County Council has decided to spend more than £1m to bring in successful heads from outside the area, who are expected to move from school to school and will act as advisers to secondary school headteachers.

The news follows warnings from the county's new education chief, Janet Tomlinson, that complacency in schools was holding back the speed of improvement.

Ironically, the news came as new figures this week showed Oxfordshire's pupils are performing better than the national average at 14 in Key Stage Three tests.

But the decision to bring outside help results from Oxfordshire persistently finishing bottom of league tables comparing GCSE results with other similar affluent counties.

Michael Waine, the cabinet member for schools improvement, said: "We fully recognise that a significant number of our schools are already well focused on the county council's improvement agenda, and just need supportive encouragement.

"However, there are others that need challenge and support, and a small number that need intervention."

It is not yet known how many schools will be targeted, or where the emergency heads will be sent to work.

The failure to improve local schools resulted in Oxfordshire County Council being demoted from a four to a three-star authority by the Audit Commission three weeks ago.

But the county received a boost this week when Oxford's largest secondary school - Cherwell - became the first in the county to be rated "outstanding" by education watchdog Ofsted.

Susan Tranter, head of Fitzharrys School, Abingdon, said: "I am pleased that at last the local authority is doing something to support the leadership in our schools."

She believed the education authority could itself also benefit from seconding outside experts.

Jill Judson, head of Cherwell School, added: "This is making clear, something that we already know, that the Schools Improvement Service needs to improve itself. It's not good at the moment.

"These seconded teachers are first and foremost needed to help the work of the local authority in improving schools."

Andrew Hamilton, head of Bartholomew School, Eynsham, said: "The idea of employing someone who has been a successful head teacher as senior advisor is a good idea.

"One of the things we have been lacking in Oxfordshire is people with the experience of and knowledge of turning a school around, partly because of lack of willingness to fund such a position."

The new super heads are expected to be employed in September.