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From The Principal…

Welcome to the new academic year.

Staff enjoyed two INSET Training days on the 3rd and 4th September refreshing their health, safety, medical and care practice training as well as updating their safeguarding understanding and knowledge. For those working in our new Autism Specific Provision classes, they had a full day of behaviour analysis and planning training. We are very excited about this new initiative and know that this will lead to greater focus and support for these youngsters. Verbal Behaviour Analysis approaches will be rolled out across the school for those not placed in the Autism Specific classes later in the academic year. 

This project work is already attracting a great deal of interest and attention from specialist professionals in the field of Autism and we are hoping that our work will lead to a published research project in the future. We will keep you informed of these exciting developments in due course.

Columbus continues to grow and expand in all departments. I have been delighted to receive more children and young people to the academy than ever before – this enables us to reach more families locally and, in time, will help us with increased levels of funding to continue to provide a high quality service to all our young people. 

This term we welcome our new school nurse, Moira Radford. She replaces Anna Simmons who left the local nursing service to return to nursing duties in her local community.

Music Therapist, Anita Vaz will be leaving us at the end of the month to pursue duties closer to home. Our other Music Therapist, Amelia Clapham, will take up her duties across the two campuses. Amelia has been working with our young people since last term and will now move to expand her caseload to encompass any young person Anita has been supporting.

Amelia and Anita will both continue to support Columbus in the preparations for the Shakespeare Festival in November. Students from across the two campuses have been taking part in auditions and rehearsals and will perform their rendition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Civic Theatre on 16th November 2015 at 7pm. Tickets are available from the Columbus Reception team (Tickets are £9 with concessions £7). We are looking forward to our young people being included in a mainstream, fully inclusive production with local secondary schools also taking part and I am very excited to be able to share more of what our young people are capable of with our wider community!

As families prepare to get back into the school routine, I can confirm that all School and College Campus clubs commence with effect from Monday 21st September. We look forward to seeing your young person enjoying these after school opportunities!

Ginny Bellard



posted 9 Jan 2018, 03:21 by Web Admin

Dear Parents and Carers,

A happy and healthy new year to you all.

I am delighted to be able to write my first letter as the new Principal at Columbus School and College. All the staff and children have made me feel very welcome and I feel privileged to be joining the school community. As many of you will know, I previously worked here for over 16 years. The positive, warm atmosphere and constant drive for improvement at Columbus makes it a very special place.

I would like to formally share my immense gratitude to Tom Jackson-Owens as Acting Principal and Gary Corbett, Assistant Vice-Principal, for their leadership during the Autumn Term and to Malcolm Reeve for his expertise, advice and additional leadership support during this period. I am delighted that Tom is resuming his role as Vice-Principal, Gary is continuing his role as Assistant Vice-Principal and Malcolm is now supporting as Chair of Governors for Columbus. My role as Principal across both the School and College is to ensure the Academy provides consistent high quality teaching and learning, working closely with the skilled teams in each department supported by the senior leadership team.

My duties will be conducted on School Campus on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday mornings and on College Campus on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday afternoons.

My priority as Principal is to ensure that Columbus continues to provide an outstanding education for every pupil and young person. Not only do I want to get to know the pupils, staff and school community this term but also establish an excellent team to work alongside me. This is to ensure we are able to continue to meet the needs of all our pupils to achieve their full potential in their academic, creative, personal, physical, moral and spiritual development.

Your child is placed at the heart of everything we do. Our team of staff are skilled, hardworking and committed to developing your whole child, not just their academic ability. We recognise that success for every child will be different and we celebrate this in numerous ways. Achievement and good behaviour are encouraged using a positive approach.

We aim to work closely with families; you are welcome to come into school at any time to discuss any issues. You know your child best and we believe that working together is the best way. Home school diaries, home visits and social events are all part of this partnership.

I look forward to meeting you all over the course of the next few weeks and invite you to share any thoughts or concerns you may have.

I would like to thank you personally for your continued commitment and support towards the staff and pupils of this school.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Karen Clark



posted 19 Dec 2017, 02:04 by Web Admin


The young people and staff have been busily preparing for their Christmas performances, parties and events over the last few weeks and we hope you enjoyed all the Christmas festivities in the run up to the end of term.


Once again our Key Stage 3 pupils took part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival on 14th November, at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford.  This year they performed ‘Romeo and Juliet’


Peige Aarons, an LSA on College Campus and also a member of the Friends of Columbus Committee organised a Fire Walk on 11th November at Broomfield Football Club in Chelmsford.  The evening was fairly well supported and a profit of approximately £4,350 was made.  Thanks to Peige for organising this event and to everyone who took part or supported in some way

We are delighted to let you know that the total amount raised so far from the Friends Christmas Fair held on 1st December is £2,399. Thank you very much to everyone who helped and supported with this event and thanks to our sponsors Beresfords in Chelmsford.

Friends are always looking for new members or offers of help so, if you feel you can help them in any way, please let us know.


By the time you read this Blog you may have seen your child’s Christmas performance on School Campus or attended the Christmas Market on College Campus. We hope everyone enjoyed these very special events.


This year we are very grateful to Gepp & Sons, Solicitors, who have paid for all pupils and staff to enjoy a Christmas dinner prepared by the school catering staff.  Our grateful thanks to them for making this Columbus tradition possible once again this year.


The kitchens and Catering Team were inspected recently and received a 5 Star Award with a quote from the inspector of ‘Excellent Standards’.  Well done to them!


We were very honoured to be visited by Sir Trevor Brooking, Lady Hikka Brooking, representatives from the Lady and Lord’s Taverners and Laser Electrical to carry out the official opening of the upgraded sensory rooms on College Campus recently.  The Lord’s Taverners awarded the school a £15,000 grant for new sensory equipment with a significant part of the grant (£8,000) being provided by Laser Electrical, a local business.  Guests were given the opportunity to see how the new sensory equipment is used to support children with severe learning difficulties in their learning.  Guests saw two sessions and also had the opportunity to see some classrooms.


I am very sorry if parents/carers have not been completely updated about the PD arrangements this term. In case you were not notified then this can be summarised as follows.  Cherie Lashmar is now Head of Learning for Key Stage 2 as Allison Dutaut left last summer, and each Key Stage has one PD teacher who teaches all the PD to the children in that Key Stage.

There has been a fair amount of disruption to the swimming timetable this term and this has been down to staffing levels and safety. We have managed to address this issue now, although it should be noted that swimming is a high risk activity and therefore it is cancelled if there are any health and safety concerns, such as staffing levels. 

24X7 LTD.

I’m very glad that many of the issues with 24X7 Ltd. are now sorted out. Parents/carers will be aware that the relationship between parents and 24X7 Ltd. is overseen by Essex County Council Passenger Transport Team and issues with any route need to go to 24X7 Ltd. in the first instance and then to the Passenger Transport Team. We can give advice to parents and 24X7 Ltd.  but it is not in our remit to oversee or manage 24X7 Ltd.


Some parents/carers have suggested that we look at how other special schools organise their INSET days. Some parents shared that some schools group all their INSET days together, so that pupils have one week extra attached to one school holiday a year. Many schools organise INSET days in the way that we currently do it. I will share all this with Karen Clark when she arrives and when we start planning next year’s INSET dates.


Some parents/carers have shared that they feel that Graduation Assemblies should be done in classes, rather than in hall, which is often distressing and loud for their children. Some parents would prefer a smaller event and I will share this with Karen and Louise Doe.


A longstanding partnership that Columbus has with the Fuchsia Society continues to benefit the children and young people at the academy. I was invited to speak at their Annual Awards Evening on Wednesday 29th November to share a little more about the work we do with our very special children and young people. The group were very interested to hear about the remarkable work of the staff and indeed the achievements of the young people.  The evening culminated in me being presented with a cheque for £3,000 for the academy.

In the past, the funds have been used to develop inclusive learning and social events with our friends and colleagues from St. John Payne Secondary School. The Fuchsia Society have also supported in the funding of the end of year ‘Leavers’ Ball’ for young people in Year 11 and Year 14 to have a party and experience a celebration event that marks their achievements throughout their school life, in a similar way that their mainstream friends would experience.  Our sincere thanks go to the group for their extended interest in and support of our academy.


Congratulations to Wyatt Morgan, a pupil in Early Years, whose design was entered into the AET Christmas Card Competition 2017.  This competition is open to all special academies within AET.  An entry from another special academy, Wishmore Cross, won this year but we have posted Wyatt’s entry onto our social media for everyone to see.  Well done Wyatt!


As the year draws to a close I always like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported our ongoing fundraising efforts in any way.  The support that we receive is truly amazing and there are just too many people to mention individually.  Please be assured that every single donation we receive is appreciated so much and really does make a difference.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year.


A reminder that the last day of term is Wednesday 20th December and pupils return on Thursday 4th January.  Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd January are INSET days. Taxis have been informed.

These two training days will be used to ensure that all staff have the very latest mandatory Safeguarding Children in Education training and refresher training in Moving and Positioning, Dysphagia, Epilepsy awareness and Gastronomy and EHCP updates for all staff.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Mr. Tom Jackson-Owens

Acting Principal 


posted 13 Nov 2017, 02:14 by Web Admin

Following a visit from Her Majesty’s Inspectors on 19th September, 2017 I am very proud to share the Ofsted Report confirming that Columbus continues to be Outstanding. I hope you enjoy reading it.

This result is down to the hard work, commitment, dedication, perseverance, enthusiasm and love for the children shown by all staff at Columbus.

I have shared with them my deepest and heartfelt thanks and total respect for the work they do and for ensuring that this wonderful school continues to be Outstanding.

I would also like to acknowledge the enormous and significant contribution made by Ginny Bellard, our former Principal, to ensure that we remain Outstanding.

Warmest regards,

Mr. T. Jackson-Owens

Acting Principal

ACTING PRINCIPAL’S BLOG – October and November 2017

posted 13 Nov 2017, 02:08 by Web Admin

Welcome to my blog for October and November.

You will by now have received my letter with the Ofsted Report. Thank you to parents and carers who have sent us congratulations. We are delighted with this Report and will continue to do our best to give your children the best education we possibly can.

An Outstanding Ofsted should be celebrated but we also need to keep moving forward and improving. On Monday 13th November our new Principal, Karen Clark, will be visiting and Gary Corbett and I will be working with her in preparation for January 2018.

Parents have now been notified of their child’s EHCP meeting date for this academic. As you will appreciate, these meetings are very difficult to rearrange and so we share the dates with parents well in advance in order that you can make appropriate arrangements to attend.

Once again Louise Doe, Head of Learning for Key Stage 3, is working very hard to pull together the performers from both campuses who will be taking part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival next Tuesday, the 14th November, at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford. This year we will be performing ‘Romeo and Juliet’. We are hoping that you will be able to join us at this exciting event which will see our young people performing in and supporting an authentic dramatic event involving a number of local mainstream schools. For us this is true inclusion and equality of opportunity and I am very proud that Columbus students have a chance to be involved once again and share with our local community what we are all truly capable of! Our allocation of tickets has been sold but tickets are still available from the Civic Theatre Box Office. Tickets cost £9.50 per adult and £7 per concession.

Friends of Columbus are still very active and more details about all Friends events will be sent out nearer the time of each event. In the meantime, here are the next key dates for your diaries:

· Fire Walk on 11th November

· Christmas Fair on 1st December

Friends are always looking for new members or offers of help so, if you feel you can help them in any way, please let us know.

Our families and friends will be aware that the Mayor of Chelmsford, Mayor Duncan Lumley, has nominated the Friends of Columbus as one of his three Charities. I attended an evening presentation following the Mayor's Golf Day on 15th September and gave a short talk about Columbus and the Friends fundraising work. The Friends will receive money from the Mayor's charity fund later in the year. 

It was a beautiful sunny day for our group of Ford volunteers who came for the fourth year running recently to work on School Campus and College Campus. They made a new fire pit complete with a cover for safety, fitted new guttering and a water butt, had a good tidy up and pruned shrubs and painted fences in the Early Years playground. Our very grateful thanks once again for the continued support they give to Columbus.

You can see in the picture below the tremendous work carried out by members of the Chelmsford Round Table in the school sensory garden. Over the past few months they have worked very hard to clear overgrown shrubs, tidy borders, make new planting beds, supply pots and plant new shrubs and flowers.

We were delighted to be informed that we are a winner in the Start Well category of the NHS Mid Essex CCG 'Marvels Of Mid' Awards awards held recently. Nominees said:

'This school is a great example of how you can meet the very diverse needs of young people in a way that gives them the best possible start, even when they are facing additional challenges.

Each pupil is given tailored support so that they can participate in lessons to their full potential and enjoy time with friends. Staff are truly dedicated and the range of extracurricular activities and support for parents is excellent. This school is first-class.'

Finally, the parent of one of our pupils in KS3, has asked that her praise and thanks for the Columbus Discovery Club and its staff be shared in my blog. Her son had an amazing time and she, as a parent, found it very well organised. She, along with many other parents, would like to thank Sarah Lambert and her team. We are very pleased that Sarah and her team can continue to offer the fantastic opportunities Discovery Club gives to our children during the Summer and Easter holidays. Well done everyone!

Mr. Tom Jackson-Owens

Acting Principal


posted 19 Sep 2017, 02:48 by Web Admin

I would like to welcome everyone back as we start this new academic year together.

I hope that all our families enjoyed the summer break. The start of term has been very good in classes and the children have settled very well.

As promised in the letter sent to you all by Malcolm Reeve (AET Executive Director, SEND and Inclusion) last week, I am writing to confirm that for the coming term I will be the Acting Principal at Columbus until the arrival of our new Principal, Karen Clark in January. The majority of you will already know me well and I am looking forward to meeting the parents/carers of the new children and young people who joined us this week as soon as possible.

Malcolm Reeve will be dealing with finance and personnel matters this term and my focus during this interim period will be on teaching and learning.

Gary Corbett, Assistant Vice-Principal, remains in his current post and will focus on safeguarding and behaviour. Gary and I plan to split our time equally across School and College during the school week.

Parents will be very pleased to know that Ginny left a very stable and committed group of staff and our turnover of staff over the last year was very low. I am, therefore, confident that we have a good team in place and I will do everything I can to support them.

We are working very closely with the new transport provider 24X7 Ltd. to ensure that the arrival and departure process works as smoothly as possible. There have, unfortunately, been some challenges for some parents but we are confident that any problems will be resolved in the next few days.

At the end of last term, we nominated our Principal, Ginny Bellard, for a Jack Petchey Leaders Award for all that she had achieved at Columbus. I am delighted to be able to inform you that Ginny has been chosen and is a winner of the award and will be presented with a medal, certificate and a copy of Jack Petchey’s book. This Leader Award also enables Columbus School and College to apply for a Small Grant of up to £750 on a project that benefits our 11-25 year olds. I will advise you in due course what we will be using this award money for.

Mr. Tom Jackson-Owens

Acting Principal


From The Principal…

posted 11 Jul 2017, 07:12 by Web Admin   [ updated 11 Jul 2017, 08:58 ]

The Fondest of Farewells…


As I sit down to write the very last  blog as your Principal at Columbus School and College, I reflect on all we have achieved and all that we, or rather you dear readers, will continue to achieve. 

Even during this term, we have achieved so much and the accomplishments of the children and young people mirrors this. In the majority of learning areas, in excess of 90% of learners have achieved or exceeded their learning targets set for this academic year. This might be learning new mathematics or literacy skills. It might be a skill in the area of independence or an important life skill. For many it would be learning to communicate or adjust to a new change.  

Teams who support the children and young people in receipt of an ABAVB have in some cases, seen amazing achievements. Some have learnt to independently shower themselves or use the bathroom completely independently. Many are now able to sit down at a table and share a meal or a learning activity with their family. Some have even been able to visit a restaurant with their family for the first time! 

Some pupils have begun to speak more, or have even spoken for the first time. I can only imagine the joy and elation of hearing your child’s first “Hello Mummy” after years of patient waiting. Congratulations and thank you to all those who have worked tirelessly to achieve these amazing things for the children and their families. 

The standard of teaching and learning has continued to improve this term. Thank you to everyone for their continued efforts and focus in delivering their very best to our children and young people. This term, we have seen 93% of teachers performing at a Good or Outstanding level. This is a 7% improvement on last term and is very pleasing.  

Since my last blog, we have been working on improving how our young people see and experience their School or College environment. Signposts pointing the way to key learning locations or people who work in their School/College have also begun to go up in order to enrich the young people’s understanding and begin to build a skill for independent way-finding around the academy. This is a job that will be gradually completed in the run up to the end of term. 

We have continued to work hard on the College Campus to improve the social experiences and opportunities offered to our young people at lunchtime. African Djembe drumming circles have been introduced and a Zumba class is currently being planned by the FE Department. Interactive dance resources are being used to engage the young people and we hope to share further pictures of these experiences on our Facebook page soon! 


Columbus has been very proud to support a stand at the ‘3foot Festival’ this year, held at Hyland’s Park. The stand, led and co-ordinated by Chelmsford City Council Disability Champion, Councillor Stephanie Scott, advertised a range of support groups, benefits and entitlements available to families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. I was very proud to share our Parent Directory (Yellow Pages eat your heart out!) which has taken many years of expertise, knowledge and editing to create and I hope that it will bring families some help and support as they begin to navigate the complex and often confusing world of special needs. Thank you to Councillor Scott for inviting us to contribute in her support for local families of those with an additional need.


Columbus’s success in the area of fundraising continues. A Race Night was held to mark the commencement of the Mayor’s Charity Year. You may be aware that The Friends of Columbus Fundraising Committee has been nominated as one of his chosen charities this year. The event was a great success and I thank most sincerely, our fundraiser, Claire Rayner for the tremendous level of input she has given to make it so. The night raised in excess of £1,100; money which will go towards the organisation of the next fundraising event for the Mayor. Please do keep an eye out and support where you can, as all monies raised will come to Columbus, Chelmsford City Mencap and Age Concern in the Spring of 2018. Various Christmas and New Year events will be advertised soon!


An amazing £14,000 has been raised by our friends at Sainsbury’s Springfield, Chelmsford, Claire Rayner and by the help of Columbus parents and staff through in-store bag-packing days and social events. This is amazing and the money will secure an additional day of a Speech and Language Therapist for the new academic year. I hope to sign and secure contracts in the coming week so that additional input plans for all departments across Columbus can be in place for September.


I would like to take this opportunity to share with you all, an exciting opportunity that Ellie Jenkins, one of our Learning Support Assistants, will be embarking upon this month. Ellie is going to work at a special school in India, having raised money and also collected a range of toys and teaching resources to take with her. I am sure you will wish her every success as she embarks on her journey. Ellie, we look forward to hearing of your adventure on your return and hope that perhaps you will make some pen pals we can email in partnership!


And so, I sign off now.


I thank you for all you have given me. I thank you for all you have taught me.


Most importantly, I thank you for enabling me to be one of those few, fortunate individuals who can genuinely say, they have loved their job.


You will forever be in my heart. 


From The Principal…

posted 5 Jun 2017, 07:12 by James Dorey

Columbus - Onwards and Upwards!

As we enter the final half term of the academic year, our team’s pace and focus for school improvement does not let up!

We have all enjoyed a training day on the 5th June where we have focussed upon building communication support approaches for our young people. We have re-visited the importance of individually designed communication support tools and our class teams are now populating an updated version of the Columbus Communication Passport to ensure that every child and young person with a communication need is fully understood. This document will also ensure that staff (established team members and those new to the team) take time to reflect upon specific communication needs and approaches and ensure that we are providing targeted and relevant support. It is also important to remind ourselves of how communication opportunities and resources that help our young people to tell us what they need or share how they are felling, aids their wellbeing.

This half term will see time invested in the development of the communication environment itself. We aim to enrich the displays, rooms and corridors across the School and the College campuses to aid the process of “way-finding” for our young people and to promote their understanding of the place in which they learn and grow in independence.

Watch out for our new signs!

I was very excited to meet with our PMLD Development project team just before the half term break, to share and celebrate the curriculum review they have been working on. For some time now, I, and the rest of the PMLD teachers, have been reflecting upon how we can best provide relevant and meaningful learning and social interaction experiences for our young people based in the PMLD classes.

This half term will see a pilot project where our three PMLD class teachers in Key Stages 1, 3 and 4 will trial a PMLD targeted timetable focussing intently upon cognition (understanding and awareness), sensory, communication, physical development and social interaction across every learning session. Instead of labelling learning time according to a subject, the learning session will be named, structured, resourced and delivered according to the SEND specific support focus. While the children and young people will still access the full range of relevant curriculum subjects and opportunities, the planning, resourcing and learning experience will be more intently directed towards the individuality of these learners, their communication, sensory and physical needs and the promotion of their social inclusion and development.

The team will also be trialling a new tracking format which will form a part of the young person’s Learning Progress Report. The tracker will focus upon the level of the young person’s engagement, attention and participation in a lesson or activity.

Over the course of this half term, the team will also be dovetailing our Key Skills Curriculum with key areas of focus from the SEND Code of Practice 2014 to include learning sessions of Communication (Interaction with peers and adults, sensory stories, speaking and listening, Community-Based Learning, Cognition development (Science, Numeracy, ICT etc.), Physical Development (individual therapy programmes, Swimming, PE, Fine Motor Skills practice), Sensory exploration (visual skills, Food Tech) and Social and Emotional Development (inclusion).

If successful, this will be rolled out School and College-wide from September. Further updates to follow!

The Columbus ABA project continues to go from strength to strength across the School and the College campuses. Recent data analysis has taken place and has been independently verified by experts at Bangor University.

It is wonderful to see how our fundraising efforts to enable this work to continue have benefitted the young people across Columbus. It has been heartwarming to hear of our successes transferring into the home setting too with children and young people on the programme beginning to talk for the first time, families being able to widen their social experiences because of the calming effect the programme has had on the young people and indeed the day to day successes of the young people on the programme as they become more ready to “learn to learn”, communicate and interact.

I am currently in the process of constructing a further training event for ABA staff to share their successful teaching and support techniques with colleagues across School and College. This will widen the impact of this initiative further as we share impactful techniques that all will be able to transfer into their own classrooms and learning activities. This will continue to build upon the recent Learning Support Assistant training I have delivered in the area of “Advancing Learning” – a series of training sessions for LSAs to hone and develop their professional skills.

Assessments and programmes will be updated over the course of this half term ready for the start of the new academic year. A plan for the partnership with the ABA consultant to continue working with Columbus into the academic year 2017-2018 is currently being created so that these successes can continue into the future.

And finally…

It has been wonderful to work closely with our Governors recently to report to them on the progress made in key areas of the school, to help them to develop their own comprehensive training and development programmes and to share with them, aims and focus areas for further ongoing School and College improvement. Recent events have included, learning walks, safeguarding panel reviews and standards reporting by key stage. In the coming half term, Governors will be visiting to observe the effect of our teaching and therapy interventions on pupil progress and to learn about our assessment and reporting procedures.

I look forward to updating you all in this area in my next blog.

With regards to you all,

Ginny Bellard


From The Principal…

posted 23 May 2017, 05:20 by James Dorey

I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with the staff and Governors at Columbus over recent weeks, revisiting our vision for the academy and sharing our collective views and aspirations for our very special young people.

Once I had gathered all the thoughts, views and notes from staff I had the enormous task of trying to select which were the most important and pertinent suggestions (from among over 100 pages of notes!). It felt almost impossible to encapsulate everyone’s contributions!

I therefore decided to display as many of the staff’s key words and phrases within a “wordle” which I think truly sums up everyone’s hopes and dreams for each and every one of our learners. Past this month’s blog, the vision will be displayed around the School and College campuses and also appear at the top of our website so that all can see our joined-up vision and united commitment to delivering the very best to our very special young people.

Hallam’s Café continues to go from strength to strength. Small groups of students share the responsibility of opening the café – now open all day. If you are a regular customer, you can even get a Hallam’s Café loyalty card! This wonderful opportunity, set up by the FE team, is offering our young people opportunities to develop their communication skills, experience early work experience and practice their money skills. Thank you to all involved in the development of this wonderful learning experience.

I am delighted to share with you all that following a visit from the Lord's Taverners and a sensory resource company, the Friends of Columbus School and College have been nominated their local Charity of the Year.

The two groups will be taking the College sensory rooms as a joint project. Laser Electrical will be holding a number of sponsored challenges throughout the year and will have the Columbus name advertised on the back of their clothing to advertise us as their supported charity. They will also be adding details about us to their website and encouraging other businesses to join them in supporting us. Thank you to Claire Rayner, our Columbus Fundraiser, and Spencer Davis from Gepps Solicitors for linking us with these generous supporters.

Until next month…..

Mrs. Ginny Bellard


From The Principal…

posted 24 Apr 2017, 02:45 by James Dorey

The Summer Term starts here!

We have a busy and fun-packed term ahead of us with various sporting events, musical interaction training for teachers and LSAs and of course our annual CFest Summer Fayre!

I am delighted to be returning to Columbus full time after my maternity leave and to round off the academic year together with the team. This evening will see the first of four Autism training sessions delivered by me for our Learning Support Assistants which I am very much looking forward to. I am sure we will be sharing many varied experiences and skills to continue to move forward our Autism support strategies across the team.

I continue to review and reflect upon the learning and social experiences we offer to our young people at Columbus and this term I am keen to look at further enrichment opportunities with community groups. Talented local musician, Adam Amore will be joining the Columbus team on the College Campus to present a range of interactive music sessions for the young people to join in with and also for our Teachers and Learning Support Assistants to begin to learn a little more about how to present communication and music enrichment activities – even when we are not all musicians! I look forward to sharing a range of photos and videos of the work that takes place in my next blog.

As a part of this enrichment review, I am very excited to be meeting next week with Mr. Kadir, Mr. Nawaz and Mr. Syed from the Chelmsford Mosque to discuss ways in which we can work together to enable our young people to learn about people of different faiths and backgrounds. Together we will be exploring community awards and certificates that the children and young people can gain in recognition of their learning and interaction with a range of community settings and groups and I hope that our friends from the mosque will be a part of future awards ceremonies and celebrations at Columbus.

As you will be aware from my recent communications, we continue to work hard on fundraising initiatives. We have recently received a range of outdoor learning and physical development equipment and seating spaces specifically selected for our young people who use wheelchairs. This will enable them to enjoy our outdoor social spaces but have shelter from the sun as we enter the summer months. 


We have also received another Acheeva Learning Station during the Easter holiday which was kindly funded by Santander. This amazing piece of equipment enables us to ensure the physical comfort of our learners during their learning time at Columbus which enables the young people to feel ready to learn and engage.

Events to celebrate and thank our kind donators will be taking place in the weeks ahead.

The community of Burnham-on-Crouch and St Mary’s Church congregation very kindly nominated the Friends of Columbus School and College Fundraising Committee as their chosen charity when they celebrated World Autism Day on Sunday the 2nd April. You will see from the photograph below that the service was a stunning event where the church was illuminated in blue to link in with the “Autism Speaks” charity initiative. Thank you to Lorraine Lazaro and her friends for supporting Columbus in this way. Funds raised from the event will go towards the development of our Autism curriculum and training for staff. 


I am pleased to announce that the Friends of Columbus School and College Fundraising Committee has recently been named as one of three local charities to be the Chelmsford Mayor’s Charity for 2017-2018. Claire Rayner and I went to deliver a presentation to the new Mayor and his Deputy about the committee and the work they do to enhance the experiences and services we offer to our children and young people. They were very interested to hear about our very special young people and I was delighted to hear that he and his Deputy had really taken us to their hearts. In the coming months, we will be involved in arranging a number of different social events which I hope many of you will be able to attend. Chelmsford City MENCAP and Age Concern are the other two nominated charities for the year that will be working with us in the months ahead.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite staff, parents and friends of the school to join Claire and I to form a Working Party that arranges these events with the Mayor and his team. Events being discussed so far are Quiz Nights, a Cheese and Wine evening in the Meadows shopping centre, a Christmas Ball at Channels Golf Club, a community performance at the Civic Theatre and a fashion show with John Lewis in Bond Street, Chelmsford.

If you are interested in joining us in this exciting opportunity, please email the PA to the Principal, Pauline Miller, at

At our recent training day on the 31st March I was able to take some time with staff to talk about renewing our collective vision for all we do at Columbus. This was following a session on vision for our academy that I had had with a team of Governors earlier in the month. Staff and Governor comments, which all depicted a wish for an organisation of support, opportunity and joined-up working, will be collated into a community vision which I look forward to sharing with you all soon.

Until next month everyone….!

Mrs. Ginny Bellard


From The Principal…

posted 16 Mar 2017, 03:37 by James Dorey   [ updated 16 Mar 2017, 03:38 ]

Welcome to March and what feels as if Spring might be arriving!

I write to you all as I begin my return to Columbus following my maternity leave. Although it has been wonderful to spend time at home with my boys and to begin to welcome the newest addition to our family, it is great to be back at Columbus!

During my brief time back, so much has happened already.

I am pleased to announce that the local health commissioning service have allocated us a day of support every week from the Community Nursing Team. Many of you will remember Moira Radford who worked with us last academic year. Moira will be working with us every Tuesday, supporting us with specialist training needs, making adjustments to care plans and supporting staff in the care and wellbeing of children and young people across the academy. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Claire Sayers, our Health and Wellbeing Advocate who, in the absence of a school nurse, guides us all in ensuring the children and young people receive the very highest quality care and medical support while at Columbus.
Claire’s expertise and thorough knowledge of each individual student, coupled with the support she gives to the Columbus team as well as families has been invaluable and it feels right to acknowledge this. I know she will continue to work very closely with the community team to ensure the support service offered continues to be the very best it can be. Thank you to you, Claire.

Community partnerships and community based learning and social opportunities continue to be very important to us here at Columbus. One new link that has recently emerged is with Beaulieu Park and Reverend Sue Howlett. Columbus has been invited to contribute to a bulb planting event on the new housing estate where we have also been able to contribute to the design and services offered to local people with a disability. Columbus now has its own enterprise garden there which the FE department will be able to contribute to.

The quality of teaching and learning is always at the top of our agenda when thinking about the quality of service offered at Columbus. Senior and middle leaders have recently completed observations of all teachers and I am pleased to report that standards remain strong. When observations are conducted, we take the opportunity to share best practice across the academy and plan this carefully through a Post-Observation Action Plan. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be looking to offer opportunities for paired teaching and training in specific learning needs and interventions to ensure that our young people are fully engaged and comprehensively supported in their lessons.

Columbus continues to maximise opportunities to draw in additional funds locally and nationally in order to extend the learning provision available to our young people. Our fundraiser, Claire Rayner, continues to make links with local charities as well as businesses to supplement the money we have available to build upon our resources and therapy interventions.

Over the course of the last year, we have received a grant of £12,000 from our local Tesco store which has enabled us to purchase a new shelter on sunny days for our children who use wheelchairs on the
School Campus. This will be placed on the field so that all children can access the space throughout the year and spend time outside socially with their friends. Large scale bean bags, a covered sand pit and sensory walls have also been purchased from this money for children on the School Campus. A range of new playtime games and activities as well as scooters have been purchased for both the School and the College Campuses and we hope that these will arrive and be in place by the end of this term/soon after Easter.

Thank you to the staff and families that were able to give their time to support recent bag packing events at Sainsbury’s in Springfield, Chelmsford. We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of members of the public at times and are hopeful that future bag packing events will continue to build upon the money raised at the store. We have four more bag packing days at Sainsbury’s on the 8th and 9th of April and the 6th and 7th May. Sessions run 10.30-1pm and 1.30-4.00pm. If you are able to support at these events – even if it just for an hour – this would be very much appreciated. Please contact our Fundraiser, Claire Rayner at

Sainsbury’s staff are also raising money for the school via social events and one member of their team is running the London Marathon for us this year. All money raised from the bag packing and Sainsbury’s events will be presented later this year and we will keep you updated of our achievements and where the money will be spent.

The Chelmsford Round Table have recently donated £10,000 for a hoist in the school hall after parents at our Parents’ Consultation Committee raised that they would like better facilities to provide trampolining for our younger learners. The money left from this donation has gone towards purchasing two height adjustable light tables for all departments across the School and the College along with colour mixing paddles and specialist paper and letters to use with the tables. These will help to enrich the communication development and literacy lessons for our young people.

Some of the funds raised at our Christmas Fayre this year have gone towards Key Stage learning projects this term which we look forward to sharing with you at Parents’ Evenings and via our Annual Reports.

Readers will recall I am sure, Andy and Alan Rayner’s (Friends Fundraising Committee) Swim Serpentine event back in September which we have combined with some of the money from Damon Carter’s (father to Aimee, Class 15 ) three marathons over three days to purchase two charging stations for i-pads and a further 11 i-Pads shared across the School and the College. These devices will be used specifically for communication development.

A custom-made tandem is on its way from Holland over the Easter period for College Campus, paid for from the remainder of Damon’s donation.

Thank you to all our supporters and donators for their tremendous generosity, to Claire for her ongoing tenacity in gaining resources and funds and to all the staff and families who support us to continue our work in building a better service and learning environment for our very special young people.

Staff and families regularly share with us how helpful it is to know a little about the Columbus team – particularly as we comprise almost 200 people! We have recently developed an information sharing project called “A day in the life of…” where a range of staff members tell us about the job they do for Columbus and why they enjoy working here via a mini-diary entry.

It is also an opportunity for us to recognise and celebrate the diversity and range of skill in our extensive team and recognise individuals for the work they do to make our academy outstanding! Our Governors will also begin to complete these soon so you can get to know them a little more too. You can see these diary entries on our website, Facebook, Twitter, in the staffrooms and on our Good News Boards.

I hope that our readers and Facebook/Twitter followers have recently been able to see the excellent videos made by our teaching teams about learning activities at Columbus. I have asked our class teams to share and celebrate the range of practical activities that our people engage in and I have been delighted with the very high quality of the videos produced. To date we have videos depicting drama, Food Tech (Pancake Day), a piece on World Book Day and the Columbus Community Code.

I look forward to welcoming Governors into school this month to talk about the quality of service and support delivered at Columbus, to revisit our collective vision and areas we wish to improve further. I will be informing them of the upcoming training events for staff and the key projects we will be focussing on in the term ahead.

One of our newest additions to the Columbus Team is Mr Simon Best who teaches in the Key Stage 3 Department on School Campus. Simon leads the Dovedale Flyers sporting group for young people with disabilities who meet every Saturday morning from 10.00-12.00 and offer opportunities to play a variety of different sports including boxball, handball, football, hockey and cricket. The group also arranges and competes in a variety of different athletics competitions, the most prestigious being the Eastern Regional competition which is held at Melbourne Athletics Stadium. Should you be interested in getting your young person involved, the Dovedale Flyers Facebook Page is: They can also be contacted on for more information.

With the Easter break fast approaching, I wish you all a restful break. I will be returning to my duties full time after the holidays and I look forward to keeping you all posted of all the upcoming events and achievements at Columbus again in April.

Mrs. Ginny Bellard

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