CHOOSING a secondary school for a child is one of the biggest decisions a parent has to make.
Finding somewhere that will get the very best out of your son or daughter can be daunting.
There are Ofsted reports to factor in, the quality of teaching, curriculum choices, as well as the simple, but all-important consideration of whether they will be happy there.
So after all that research, it was no wonder scores of parents were left devastated to hear last November the Deanes School could be closing down – and that their choice was being taken away from them.
For many families, it meant the prospect of tearing their siblings’ lives apart and sending them to separate schools. For others, it raised the possibility of home schooling.
Now, despite 10 months of uncertainty, the school’s future has finally been secured and relieved families are seizing the chance to take up a place at the Thundersley school.
Sioux McKeown, who teaches design and technology at the Deanes, will be sending her 11- year-old daughter Charlotte there in September.
Had the school closed, it would have meant disaster for the family as both Sioux, her husband Desi who is the assistant headteacher, and their two daughters would have had to relocate to another area.
Now the school has been saved, they couldn’t imagine life anywhere else. Mrs McKeown, who used to teach at the Chalvedon School, in Pitsea, before it became one of the Basildon Academies, said: “Before that school became an academy I was teaching a year group of 330 pupils.
“Honestly, in schools like that it doesn’t matter how good the teaching is, there were children whose names I didn’t know because it was just so big.
“Coming here was a huge difference, not just as a teacher but as a parent. Being a smaller school, we have a very individualised curriculum.
“When the school was under threat my daughter was offered a place at Appleton and I’m sure she would’ve done well there.
“But for me, it was simply the size which makes a big difference.
“To be honest, we didn’t tell our daughters this, but if it had closed we would have moved elsewhere because we couldn’t have stayed to watch it be torn down and become something else.
“After the first half-term, when we found out the school could close, and the Facebook site kicked off and the campaign started, we said if we got through this, we couldn’t be anywhere else.
“The community support just shows how much it is loved and how much good it does in the area.”
Despite the school now staying open, Essex County Council is adamant its £11million rebuild is now off the cards.
The tired-looking building, which has not been refurbished since 2008, was a key factor behind falling pupil numbers at the school.
However, Mrs McKeown said: “Having a nice new building would have been lovely, but it’s what happens inside the classroom that counts.”