Teachers could go on strike over plans to turn their schools into academies.

Unrest has broken out among staff at King's Manor Community College in Shoreham, Boundstone Community College in Lancing and Littlehampton Community School.

It was announced last year that all three had been earmarked to become academies sponsored by Woodard Schools, a Christian organisation.

Staff have contacted their unions and are considering taking action.

They have expressed concerns for job security as well as fears about the way the schools would be run and the potential for an increased faith influence.

Dave Thomas, the West Sussex secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said academies undermined democratically controlled local authorities.

He said: "They put schools in the hands of unaccountable sponsors, they threaten teachers' pay and working conditions and they will introduce more schools of a faith character with minimal consultation and a reduction in parents' choice.

"Strike action is the absolute last resort and we aren't talking in those terms now but the teachers have a lot of questions they haven't had answers to yet."

Staff from the three schools have set up a public meeting in Worthing tomorrow to consider their options. Going on strike would be the most extreme step they could take.

West Sussex members of the NUT have already unanimously voted to oppose academies in the county.

The Government set up the academy scheme to encourage private investment in schools.

It provides millions for rebuilding projects if a sponsor pledges to provide backing as well. Initially there was a minimum requirement of £2 million but the condition has since been removed.

In exchange for their involvement the sponsor is given power to manage the academy and can influence its curriculum.

Part of the idea was to bring in sponsors who would give schools expertise and new direction.

Woodard owns and runs dozens of independent schools across Britain. The first it set up was Lancing College in 1848. It also runs Ardingly and Hurstpierpoint Colleges.

The group is affiliated to the Church of England but has stressed it is not evangelical.

Canon Brendan Clover, the senior provost for Woodard Schools, said: "Although we have a heritage rich in the Church of England, we welcome students from all faiths or no faith at all.

"This inclusive approach means that we value and respect each individual with the focus very much on their education and the opportunities we can provide.

"We hope the proposed academies will reinforce the Woodard ethos where each individual, regardless of their faith background, is encouraged to give their very best and valued for their contribution to their school and local community."

West Sussex County Council, which currently operates the three schools, said it was starting a consultation exercise which would involve pupils, parents, staff and members of the community.

A council spokeswoman said: "A newsletter was sent to all staff last week and this week senior officers including Robert Back, the director of children and young people's services, are visiting the schools to share progress on the project and discuss concerns with members of staff.

"Academies offer a new direction with opportunities to draw on the skills and commitment of sponsors and other supporters. They aim to work with parents and the local community to deliver distinctive new approaches to delivering real improvements in opportunities and in education standards.

"We have every confidence in Woodard Schools and their ability, working with the county council, to deliver the very best educational opportunities for young people."

The public meeting will be held at the Assembly Rooms in Stoke Abbott Road, Worthing, tomorrow at 7.30pm.

This week plans emerged for a fourth academy in West Sussex as a replacement for Midhurst Grammar School. It would be sponsored by another Christian organisation, the United Church Schools Trust.

Proposals for an academy at Falmer in Brighton were also revived this week after millionaire Labour donor Rod Aldridge offered to replace original sponsor Jon Aisbitt, who pulled out of the project after three years.