THE road to recovery may be long, but the Deanes School is hitting the ground running by offering sports apprenticeships to youngsters in Essex.

The school, in Daws Heath Road, Thundersley, has faced turmoil for ten months after Essex County Council moved to close it.

However, its future was secured when the Office of Schools Adjudicator ruled there was not enough evidence to shut it down in a shock decision in March.

Governors claim it will take about 18 months for the school to return to normality, but the sports and performing arts specialist college is trying to bring change quickly and has teamed up with the charity Sporting Futures to become the lead provider of sports apprenticeships in Essex.

Starting from September, pupils on the programme will be paid to work in local schools or leisure facilities four days a week, with one day a week set aside for training at the school.

The scheme will be opened up to 15 pupils this year and forms part of the school’s post-16 training alongside apprenticeships already available in childcare and ICT.

The school’s old nursery site is being converted into a training centre to cater for the apprentices.

Jan Atkinson, headteacher of the school, said: “We are already a sports hub for the area and have such great links with all the primary schools.

“Because of our great reputation, Sporting Futures approached us wanting to set up this partnership.

“It will provide such great opportunities and experiences for students throughout the local area who are interested in sport and maybe want to be a physiotherapist, trainers, and leisure centre managers and so on.

“Things are really on the up here, everyone has come back from Easter feeling so positive.

“More pupils are returning all the time and I’m even having to put out an advert for new teachers.

“I have said before and I’ll say it again, without all the help from the Echo and the parents and community working together this wouldn’t have been possible, so we are grateful.”

Despite the school’s £11.3million rebuild being off the cards, work has also begun on a £2.5million refurbishment to bring the building up to scratch as it has not seen any repair work for six years.

The revamp will include internal remodelling, changes to the reception area, as well as new panelling and cladding to freshen up the building’s exterior.

The school’s joint academy bid with the Billericay School is on hold until the repairs have been completed this summer.

However, hopes are high the application will be approved by the Department of Education later this year and the once under-threat school will be free from Essex County Council control and able to bid for more funding.

Mrs Atkinson said: “We have been through a crisis and come out the other side, so in a way I think a lot of positives have come from this.”

Applications for the new sports apprenticeship must be made before May 6.