FAILING primary schools across Basildon have been told to become sponsored academies in a bid to improve poor standards.

Tim Coulson, the director of education at Essex County Council, issued the ultimatum during a crunch meeting with primary schools.

Mr Coulson said it was the only way County Hall believes schools in the borough can achieve rapid and sustained improvement.

Seven Basildon primaries are rated inadequate and 14 rated satisfactory by Ofsted, Now Essex County Council is looking at bringing in a multi-academy sponsor to raise standards.

However, the move has been slammed by Alasdair Smith, chairman of the Anti-Academies Alliance. He said: “This is a dangerous move. Once primary schools start being turned into academies they are out of local authority control and then they will be turned into businesses which are encouraged to compete.

“Schools should be given the chance to improve teaching and parental participation and not just be told to become an academy.

“Look at what happened with the Basildon Academies which is in special measures. It doesn’t work every time.”

Last week Cherrytree Primary School, in Church Road, and St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, in Elsenham Crescent, were placed into special measures, bringing the total number across the borough to five.

This includes the Basildon Academies, in Basildon and Pitsea, The Willows, in Church Road, and Briscoe Primary and Nursery School, in Felmores End, Pitsea.

Briscoe Primary is already trying to turn things around by teaming up with the Wickford C of E School in Mount Road to become a sponsored academy, although headteacher Diane Pilgrim said last week the school had no choice in the decision.

Poor standards in education have already been highlighted in the town’s secondary schools where just 36.5 per cent of pupils are gaining five A to C grades at GCSE, including maths and English – well below the national average of 57 per cent.

Stephen Castle, councillor with responsibility for education, said: “The council is determined to see all children go to good schools, whether these are academies or not.

“The council believes it has a responsibility for all children, including those at academies.

“We believe where it is appropriate for a school to become an academy, this is a productive route.

“The Briscoe Primary School has the support of an outstanding school, which has led to improvements which have been documented by Ofsted through its monitoring visits.

“We see this as a successful development and believe children are getting a better education.

“Academies are not seen as the only way for schools to do better, but for some, such as the Briscoe Primary School, this is an important route to improvement.”

A Department for Education spokesman added: “Academy status is proven to be the best way to improve schools that are consistently underperforming.

“Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average rate.”