THE idea of running a group of Basildon primary schools as academies, to improve performance, is gaining support.

Basildon Council’s Tory leader, Tony Ball , welcomed the possibility.

Although the borough council has no control over education, Mr Ball is lending his weight to the Echo’s campaign to raise standards.

He said: “It is the primary schools at the moment where our priorities lie, because just too many are failing in the borough.”

Ofsted inspectors have rated five local schools as failing and in need of a “special measures” regime to improve their performance. Four of them are primaries: Cherrytree in Church Road; St Teresa’s Catholic in Elsenham Crescent; the Willows in Church Road; Briscoe in Felmores End, Pitsea .

The Basildon Academies secondary school, which has sites in Basildon and Pitsea, is also in special measures.

Details of how the primary schools “academies cluster” scheme might work have yet to be decided, but it is thought it would depend on a private concern stepping in. Mr Ball said: “The cluster would involve a mix of schools, which could help one another, sharing tips and resources. I don’t see we have any other options at the moment to improve standards.”

The idea of an academy cluster was first mooted last month by Tim Coulson, the county council’s new director of education, though he stopped short of suggesting the schools might be handed to a private company.

He said many factors still had to be considered.

He added: “The multi-academy sponsor is not something with a proven track record.

“Lots of people were sceptical, and rightfully so. “We had the discussion with the schools and said we would do some research over the summer, and come back to them in September with more information.”