FORCING failing East Lancashire schools to become academies risks leaving hundreds of children without classrooms to attend, county council leader Geoff Driver has warned.

The Tory politician is angry Education Secretary Michael Gove is pressurising troubled primaries and secondaries into independent status outside local authority control.

He sent Mr Gove a strongly-worded letter in May over attempts to make Walverden Primary School in Nelson an academy.

Since it opted to stay in Lancashire control, he has re-opened his attack.

Coun Driver is concerned failing schools taking the plunge face closure if they continue to decline, leaving pupils and parents searching for alternatives.

He has been backed by Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Labour education boss Tony Humphrys.

In May when Mr Gove directed the county to offer Walverden academy status, Coun Driver told him he did so ‘extremely reluctantly’ and would go to court if asked to do it again.

His anger increased when schools commissioner Liz Sidwell told 36 ‘underperforming’ county primaries – including 19 in East Lancashire – to consider academy status.

After telling Mr Gove of his concerns – both face to face and by letters – Coun Driver told the Lancashire Telegraph: “I have no problem helping schools that want academy status to achieve it.

“I am concerned about forcing failing schools to take that option when there is no clear procedure as to what happens if they continue to fail.

“Can Mr Gove return them to county control, order them to close or do they just go bust?

“That would be a disaster for the parents and the children.”

Coun Humphrys said: “I would hope the Government makes sure that any academies that are deemed to be failing are not left to collapse leaving pupils having to look for places elsewhere.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We will not do nothing when a school provides a substandard education.

Academy sponsors are proven to work. If an academy sponsor fails to improve a school we won’t hesitate to intervene to ensure the school improves.”