RADICAL and hugely ambitious plans aim to turn around primary education in Basildon within the next three years.

A new crack team of headteachers, business leaders and councillors, chaired by former Ofsted chief Sir Mike Tomlinson, has officially started work.

Part of the Basildon Excellence Panel’s plan will see members of the public become reading or maths “buddies” and go into schools during lunch breaks and listen to children read, or help them with sums.

The aim is for all 18 schools to be rated good or outstanding within three years, at the moment just two schools are rated outstanding.

Sir Mike, who has successfully turned around failing schools in Hackney, said the lofty ambitions could be realised.

He said: “These are tall orders, but unless we have really aspirational targets and we set out believing we can achieve them, then the whole operation isn’t going to be as effective as it should be.

“We must be as quick as possible to do this in order to make sure we are giving every young person in Basildon the best hope in life. Time is not on our side, but we know it can be done.”

Sir Mike said any “buddie”

would be security checked.

He added: “If they are listening to children read then it’s just what parents should be doing at home and they don’t have to be qualified.

“They’re not teaching the children, they’re helping them pronounce the words they would normally struggle with.

“Children are showing dramatic improvements thanks to this scheme.”

The panel will spend the next few weeks putting together its full action plan.

Meanwhile, Sir Mike warned parents not to expect dramatic changes during what was left of this school year.

He said: “If it happens then that’s great.

“But most of the effort will be in the summer term and all Key Stage 2 Sats are taken in May.”

The panel has been set up as a joint effort between Essex County Council, which is responsible for education, and Basildon Council. Both will have representatives on the panel.

It is hoped, within time, secondary schools, which are not being targeted at the moment, will also join the panel as primaries improve.