Battle is over, but recovery of the Deanes School starts now

Chair of Governors Ian Rudd

Chair of Governors Ian Rudd

First published in Southend

THE battle may be won for the Deanes School, but now begins the long road to recovery.

After almost a year of turmoil, the school, in Daws Heath Road, Thundersley, was told it could stay open earlier this month, after the Government’s Office of Schools Adjudicator overturned Essex County Council’s decision to close it down.

Now, the school’s governing body is facing the enormous task of helping it rise from the ashes.

Ian Rudd, chairman of governors, estimates it will take about 18 months for the school to get back to normal.

Mr Rudd said: “I’m very relieved the school is staying open and delighted for everyone concerned.

“It has been a long ten months.

It has been very stressful, and has placed a considerable strain on the head and the teachers whose jobs were under threat, but we have all remained united.

“Our numbers will be low this September but we always knew we would have to take a hit this year. We will not attract 120 pupils this year, we must be realistic, but we have always allowed 18 months to get back on track.

“We are confident we will achieve this and the Deanes School will be bigger and better than before because what we have learnt from this process is that there is a great depth of feeling and support in the community for the school.”

The school building currently has capacity for 1,018 pupils.

However, the governing body is remarketing it as a smaller facility for about 600 pupils.

In doing so it will provide 18 specialist places for up and coming young sports stars, a greater focus on SEN provision and the introduction of post-16 Btech courses and apprenticeships.

If its bid to become a joint academy trust with the Billericay School is successful, the building will also be used for teacher training and pupils will be able to attend classes at both schools.

Mr Rudd said when he joined the school 25 years ago, it had 500 pupils.

He said: “The Deanes School has always been a small school with a big heart.

“It grew because we started to attract pupils from Southend and Basildon. Despite this we have always retained our ethos that every child is known personally.”

The recovery will be all the harder as the school’s £11.3million rebuild is now off the cards.

In 2008 a survey estimated repairs needed to bring the building up to scratch would cost in excess of £1million, but the repairs were not been carried out.

Inspectors will visit the school this week to provide an up-to-date assessment for County Hall.

Mr Rudd said: “Essex County Council is legally obliged to maintain the school property and because of the rebuild plans there has been no investment since around 2008. The roofs are leaking.

“A condition survey will be done next week because truthfully we don’t know the extent of the repairs needed now and then the county council will have to pull its finger out and get it done.

“The council has said it will endeavour to provide firm information on redecoration to parents at our open day on the 18th.

Hopefully this will make the school look and feel different.”

The open evening will take place at the school on Tuesday, March 18, from 7pm.

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