HOTLY debated plans to close a primary school have been put on hold following a major consultation.

St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, in South Woodham Ferrers, was bookmarked for closure by Essex County Council, following an announcement that the school was “not sustainable” due to a low number of pupils.

A consultation was launched by the county council – which closed on November 30 – with the council now stating the plans have been “paused”, after hundreds responded.

The decision has been taken to allow potential, alternative options put forward during the consultation to be explored and evaluated, and to review the number of children attending the school, including Reception year applications for 2019, during the next six months.

This will also include an ongoing review of the future financial viability as these options are developed.

Once these actions have been completed a further decision will be taken on how to proceed.

At a meeting in October, more than 100 parents packed out the school’s hall as they held a meeting to propose ways to save the school.

More than 1,000 residents also signed a petition to save the school.

Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “We have listened very carefully to all the points raised during the consultation and it has become clear that more time is needed to consider alternative options and to monitor the number of children attending the school.

“We will evaluate the situation again in June 2019. In the meantime this decision means that the school will be admitting children into Reception and all other year groups from September 2019, and applications for places can continue to be made in the normal way via our website.”

Children from across Maylandsea, Stow Maries and Chelmsford attend the school.

Around 55 pupils are on the roll, despite the school having capacity for 105 pupils.

Under the proposal, the school would have been forced to close its doors for good on August 31 next year.

Places would be made available to pupils at Collingwood Primary School in South Woodham Ferrers.

Parents would also have the option of applying to alternative schools, but places would depend on each school’s admissions policy.