An award-winning headteacher is stepping down this summer after 17 years at the Billericay School.

Sue Hammond is retiring from the school, in School Road, at the end of the academic year.

The popular leader was named headteacher of the year at last month’s Essex Teaching Awards.

In a letter to parents, Mrs Hammond said: “It has been a very difficult decision to make, but I feel the time is right to hand over the reins to a new leader.

“I joined the school in 1998 and can honestly say I feel honoured and blessed to have been associated with the Billericay School and its community for so long “I feel I will be leaving the school in very safe hands.

“I understand many parents will have anxieties about the future, but I would like to reassure you I have every confidence in the school’s ability to recruit an excellent new headteacher.”

The Billericay School was rated good overall when it was last inspected by Ofsted in 2013.

Inspectors praised Mrs Hammond for setting a clear direction for the school and having “high, clearly communicated expectations of staff and students”.

The school has more than 1,700 pupils on its roll. Colin Breathwick, chairman of governors, said: “She has been a wonderful headteacher.

“The students, staff and governors will, of course, miss her very much indeed.

“After such a long period of stability, it can be disconcerting to face change, but as governors we have been very aware and mindful this day would eventually come.

“We have developed a plan for the recruitment of a new headteacher and we hope and expect the appointment to be made by the end of this spring term.”

Mrs Hammond added: “My wish is for the school to continue on its stable and successful path and I have every reason to believe this will be achieved.”