THE long-term future of the Deanes school could finally be secured after it took giant steps towards becoming an academy by next year.

The school, in Daws Heath Road, Thundersley, is on course to form a multi-academy trust with the Billericay School, enabling it to move out of Essex County Council control.

The future of the school has been in doubt ever since county councillor Ray Gooding, the man responsible for education, unveiled plans to close it due to falling pupil numbers.

Mr Gooding ignored protests, and public meetings to save the Deanes and insisted the school would close, but that decision was overturned by a Government school adjudicator in February this year.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Jan Atkinson said: “The community has told us theyvalue the option of a smaller school where everyone is valued.

“Our staff and our students have told us being at Deanes is like being part of one big family.

By working with our ‘bigger sister’ school, we feel we have the best of both worlds.

“This proposal is still being developed with the aim of making this change during the next school year.”

A meeting with parents will be held on Wednesday, July 9, and the consultation will close on July 18. Assistant headteacher at Deanes, Desi McKeown, said: “We are consulting now.

“This is part of the legal process of becoming an academy and we have no reason to believe it’s not going to happen.

“Some time in the next year we hope to have academystatus approved.”

The consultation will take into consideration any concerns over the plans and then the school must wait until Academies Minister Lord Nash issues an academy order, agreeing the plans in principle.

Sue Hammond, headteacher at the Billericay School, said: “The Deanes School and the Billericay School are engaged in making lots of exciting plans.

“We believe that through working together, both schools and their students will benefit from even greater opportunities.

“The Billericay School has been approved by the Department for Education as a sponsor of schools that want to become academies.

“Therefore, the Deanes School is going through the academy consultation process and we hope to be able to welcome its staff and pupils into the Billericay Academy Trust during the coming months.”