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PRINCIPAL’S BLOG – Autumn Term 2018

posted 22 Oct 2018, 02:30 by Web Admin

Pupil and Learning News

We have started this academic year with pupils settling well into their new classes and a wealth of learning experiences underway as well as many extra curricula activities and events. I am pleased to share some of our current projects and hope that you will support us with these: Our Shakespeare production team are hard at work rehearsing for the November performance at the Civic Theatre; we are planning a project with The Laughter Specialists also for November and Makaton training for parents is being planned with our Speech and Language Therapists for the Spring Term.  Last week Louise Doe, Tracey Plane and I attended the Jack Petchey Awards at the Civic Theatre to proudly watch two of our nine award winners receive their awards and Harvest Festival was celebrated on both campuses with a service led by Reverend Diane from the local Broomfield Church.  Our connections with the local mainstream secondary schools have already started with an ever-increasing number of students naming Columbus as first choice for their work experience to socialise and interact with pupils at School and College, engaging in paired reading project at college and turn-taking games at school.  This provides a great opportunity for pupils at Columbus to mix with mainstream pupils and is supportive of our inclusive philosophy.   

New Pupils

We warmly welcome a large group of new starters, mainly in Nursery and Reception.  This is the largest group we have had the pleasure of receiving for a number of years. I am delighted to share with you that the children in Early Years have experienced a remarkable few weeks, with some nursery aged children already happily leaving their parents for the first time and all beginning to settle to the routines and expectations of their new environment and enjoying exploring their new space. It is a pleasure to see so many pupils settling into school so well.  

Columbus Ethos and Culture – the things we believe in

Over the summer break the senior leaders and I worked together, reflecting on the past year and working on plans for the years ahead.  During this time I became aware that many parents and staff will not be familiar with the history of Columbus nor possibly the ethos and values that drive all of our thinking.  I will attempt to explain this  here by sharing some of the history of Columbus and hope you find this interesting and helpful.

When the school building was first conceived it was designed into different ‘zones’ associated with a distinct ‘phases’ of learning; Early Years & Key Stage 1 (Years 1 & 2), Key Stage 2 (Years 3, 4, 5, 6) and Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8, 9) with Key Stage 4 (Years 10, 11) and Key Stage 5 (Years 12, 13, 14) situated on the College site.  This was purposely designed so that the pupils could experience a ‘rites of passage’ through their educational time at Columbus; in the past too many ‘all through’ special schools were not able to provide this and therefore children in special schools were often denied the opportunities to experience the ‘growing’ which their mainstream peers were able to experience. It is one of the ways in which Columbus pioneered a new way of thinking about special education.

Each phase was created with a theme associated with our namesake ‘Columbus’ and the learning journey of discovery that we are all on. Early Years and KS1 – Water, KS2 – Wildlife, KS3 – Forest, KS4 – Earth, KS5 – Space and Beyond. Each phase had a phase leader, known as a Head of Learning,  for a Key Stage. Over the course of time the cohorts of pupils have changed so that in the past few years pupils have not been based in their key stage area.  For example, pupils based in KS3 - Forest Zone were not years 7, 8, 9 but a mix of Years 4, 5, 6, 7. All teachers continue to follow the appropriate curriculum and teach according to a pupil’s academic ability.

In order to make this easier for parents and for professionals working with us we felt it was time to move away from ‘naming’ the departments ‘key stages’ and to divide them with a name indicating the journey through the school.  This does not affect any entitlement to their curriculum nor does it mean children will ‘miss a year’ of education. It is simply a way of us dividing departments to ensure the pupils and young people all have equal access to the wonderful facilities we are lucky enough to have at our disposal and a sharing of expertise across different cohorts. All departments are led by a Phase Leader (PL): Nursery, Reception and Year 1 - Early Years, Years 2, 3, 4 - Lower School, Years 4, 5, 6 - Middle School, Years 7, 8, 9, 10 - Upper School, Years 11, 12, 13, 14 - FE (due to be renamed).

As always we consider the needs of each and every pupil. 

Staffing Matters

Interviews have been held during the first weeks of this term and I am pleased to be able to share the following internal appointments:

Assistant Principals

Louise Doe has been appointed as an Assistant Principal and is currently based at Columbus School.

Tracey Plane has been appointed as an Assistant Principal and is currently based at Columbus College.

Assistant Phase Leaders (the role of the APL is to support the Phase Leaders)

The following staff have been appointed as Assistant Phase Leaders:

James Blake, Victoria Beattie, Jacalyn Eyres

Cover Supervisors

The following staff have been appointed as Cover Supervisors:

Peige Aarons, Kelly Bradley, Chelsea Dixon Lianne Januszka, Katie Osborne,  Nichola Plane, Kerry Weeks

Physical Development/Swim LSA

The following staff have been appointed as PD/Swim LSAs for part of their working week:

Nichola Plane, Polly Valks

Staff Leavers

The following staff have left since my last Blog.  We thank them for all they have done for the children and young people during their time at Columbus and wish them every success and happiness for the future:

Lauren Blazer, Chloe Hall, Siobhan Humm, Barbora Kent, Wendy Prince, Laura Sterry all left during the summer break.

Natasha Evans, Laura Payne and Davina Harris are due to leave at the end of half term.

Sharon Wright is due to leave in early November.

New Staff

We have interviewed for Supply Learning Support Assistants since we returned from the summer break and I am pleased to let you know that the following people have been appointed:

Phie French, Jordan Hopper, Michelle Gregory,  Prajna Poonacha, Michelle Spicer , Emily Vincent, Linda Whittlesey  We look forward to them joining the team once the necessary checks have been completed.

We have also held two days of interviews for Apprentice Learning Support Assistants and I am pleased to inform you that we have successfully secured high calibre appointments from a large field of candidates. They will be receiving extensive training during their course and I am confident this new initiative will serve the school well.

Baby News

We were delighted to hear that Orla Thornton (Teacher in Upper School) gave birth to a baby girl on 11th August.  Olivia Patricia weighed 9lbs 1oz and Ann Samson (FE Department) had a little boy during the summer holidays.  Ethan Louis Smith was born on  17th  September at 10.45am and weighed 8lb 9oz.  Congratulations Orla and Ann!

Year Planner/Term Dates

The Columbus Year Planner for 2018/2019 showing all term dates, holidays, INSET Days and significant events has been sent to all parents/carers.  The most up-to-date version of this will always be posted on our website More information about all events will, of course, be sent out nearer the dates.

Parent and Community Advisory Board (PCAB) and Employee Advisory Board (EAB) Meetings

PCAB and  EAB meetings have been held during October. The PCAB has three key objectives: Community - The PCAB will act as a link between the school and its local community, ensuring that children benefit from local opportunities for learning, development and employment.  Concerns - The PCAB is an independent point of contact to help people find the appropriate processes to communicate their concerns. Celebrations - championing the strengths and achievements of the academy, recognising that success breeds success, and it is in everyone's interest to promote the reputation of the academy and its pupils.

Annually we invite anyone who is interested in joining the PCAB to submit their nomination via

The EAB provides an opportunity for a group of staff to come together to recognise and celebrate positive developments and to raise any concerns that they may have.

Parents’ Evenings

School  - 22nd November

College - 29th November

The usual letters asking you to make appointments will be sent out in the next few weeks.

INSET Days 4th and 5th September

During INSET days staff all benefitted from a number of essential training modules. Every member of the teaching team is trained annually in moving and positioning children and young adults. All staff are trained in general Epilepsy awareness and key staff undergo further training in medical interventions. During the two days, teams also met together for planning and preparation. Another two days are planned next half term (29th October and 30th November) to focus on curriculum, safeguarding, lifeguard training and Essex Steps (which is a system designed to provide high quality understanding and training in the management of behaviour and the prevention of behaviour from escalating).


Lower, Middle, Upper and FE pupils had individual and class photos taken recently by our new company ‘Special Moments Photographic’.   Early Years children will have their photographs taken on 22nd November.  A letter will be sent to parents/carers in due course.

Fundraising by The Angel, Broomfield

We are very grateful to the staff of The Angel Pub in Broomfield who held a great fundraising event for Columbus at the beginning of the summer holidays.   Anyone who went along will have had a great time on a bright and blustery day. They raised an amazing £700.  Our sincere thanks to them for organising this event.

Social Media

We continue to see some great achievements for our children and young people. If you follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter (@ColumbusSchool), I am sure you will have read the articles and seen the photos of the children and young people hard at work and indeed enjoying themselves in a range of learning activities.


Our Amazon Wish List is constantly updated.  If you would like to browse please visit   Thank you.   Please remember to also support Columbus via Easyfundraising.  If you have not already done so, you can register at  Thank you to everyone who has helped us raise nearly £3,000 to date!

And finally, thank you to everyone who managed to join us for their child’s open class afternoon; I hope you all found this helpful and enjoyable. It has been a busy first half term full of learning and fun, and I am really looking forward to seeing all the learning opportunities and experiences the teaching teams are planning for the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas Productions!

I wish you all a wonderful half term break with your child and look forward to seeing you all at Parents’ Evening or one of our planned events.   

Karen Clark




posted 18 Jul 2018, 06:17 by Web Admin   [ updated 18 Jul 2018, 06:20 ]


We have come to the end of another academic year and what an amazing one it has been for everyone!

Working with children who have special educational needs presents its challenges but these are always outweighed by the constant pleasure at seeing the progress being made both academically and socially. The learning targets for each pupil are personalised to them. This might be learning a new literacy or mathematical concept or the development of an important life skill. For many it is learning to communicate or a strategy for managing change.  

Some children have begun walking for the first time, taking those first vital steps. These achievements must be a sheer delight for parents who have waited patiently in hope for so long.  Congratulations and thank you to all those who have worked tirelessly to achieve these amazing things for the children and their families.  

The quality of teaching and learning is always at the top of the agenda when thinking about the quality of service offered at Columbus. Senior and middle leaders completed cycles of observations and learning walks of all teaching and I am pleased to report that standards remain strong. Thank you to everyone for their continued efforts and focus in delivering their very best to the children and young people. In the months ahead, we will be looking to offer opportunities for paired team teaching and training in specific learning needs and interventions to ensure pupils are fully engaged and effectively supported in their learning.

Columbus’s success in the area of fundraising continues. You will be aware that The Friends of Columbus Fundraising Committee was nominated as one of the Mayor’s chosen charities this year, along with Chelmsford City Mencap and Age Concern. The Mayor along with his Deputy worked tirelessly to maximise the fundraising opportunities over the course of his time in Office. Last week ex Mayor, Councillor Duncan Lumley and ex Deputy, Councillor DeVries visited Columbus to present a cheque for over £15,000 to provide much needed resources for the pupils. This is an amazing achievement and we are so very grateful to everyone who contributed to organising and supporting the numerous events. I am delighted to inform you that both Councillor DeVries and Councillor Lumley are keen to continue to support the school and will be meeting with me in the Autumn Term to explore opportunities to do so.

During the Summer Term we were pleased to receive separate visits from both Jack Boyer, Chair of AET Board of Trustees and Julian Drinkall, CEO at AET, who have expressed a keen interest in the incredible work we do at Columbus School and College. They are both committed to supporting the Academy to achieve more for the pupils and young people and keen to hear more about all the exciting achievements that the children experience.

 Parent and Community Advisory Board

The PCAB met again this term following a meeting of the parent group. The main topics discussed were transitions across the School and College, horse riding and curriculum. We were pleased to be joined by two new parents who expressed an interest in joining the PCAB. Next year’s meetings will be held to coincide with termly reporting to the Governing Body. If you would like to raise awareness of anything that Columbus does really well, e.g. improved home/school communication, events for parents to join in with their children (such as Olympic Legacy Day), please do inform one of the members of the Advisory Board so they are able to share this more widely.  We will be producing a PCAB noticeboard for the Autumn Term to facilitate effective communication.

 Olympic Legacy (Sports) Days

We enjoyed our annual Olympic Legacy (Sports) Days in June and a great time was had by all. 



C Festival

Our fourth successful C-Festival Music event was held by the Friends and staff of Columbus on Saturday 30th June – bringing in funds nearly £3,500. The weather was glorious this year and we all enjoyed listening to local bands and watching performers throughout the afternoon.  I was pleased to see so many of you at the event.

We were, once again,  supported by a number of local businesses through sponsorship and donations to our raffle and auction. Their generosity and the time they gave to us to help to make the event such a success is hugely appreciated.  Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this event such a success.

Graduation Events

We have planned a number of graduation events for children and young people transitioning to their new departments, and indeed to pastures new as some of them prepare to leave Columbus and pursue learning and support in the wider community.  You will have already received information if your child is one of those transitioning this year.  We are also looking forward to our Leavers’ Ball which takes place once again at  Pontlands Park in Gt. Baddow on 19th July.  I will be very proud to host this event for the first time. I was also delighted to receive recent confirmation that the new Mayor of Chelmsford, Councillor Yvonne Spence will be attending.

Residential Journey

KS4 and FE students enjoyed a residential journey to Mase-y-Lade, Wales in June.  They took part in lots of activities and gained many memories. There are several videos on our Facebook page for you to enjoy if you have not already seen them.

Fuchsia Society

This year's annual display weekend is taking place on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th August 10am - 5pm at St. John Payne RC Secondary School, Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 4BS.  I know many of you enjoy this event.  The Fuchsia Society have been supporters of the school for many, many years and we are extremely grateful to them for their ongoing support.

One Great Thing from 2017/2018  – AET National Conference

The AET National Conference for Principals was held on 11th July.  Each academy was asked to share ‘One Great Thing’ that had happened in their academy during 2017/2018 and I was very proud to do this on behalf of Columbus. I was honoured to share one of the videos we recently created to tell the story of the holistic learning journey for children and young people at Columbus with our colleagues from the 64 AET Academies across the country.

Annual Reports

You will receive your child’s Annual Report during the last week of term and have received a letter informing you of your child’s class and class teacher for next year along with further information regarding classes and learning phases.

Discovery Club Dates

A reminder that Discovery Club will be running during the summer holidays as usual from from 23rd  July to 16th  August inclusive.  Booking forms and further information can be found on our website

New Staff

We welcome the following new staff who have joined Columbus since my last Blog:

Supply Learning Support Assistants – Rebekka Trigwell, Maisie Collins, Samantha Ewles, Kat Derlak, Suzanne Metson and Jaymee Cuthill.

Staff Leavers

The following staff have left since the last Principal’s Blog or will be leaving at the end of this term:

LSAs - Rosie Wackett, Victoria Waller, Abby Greensmith, Antonina Stocker, Jessica O’Sullivan

Support Staff  - Pat Clements, Ira Flack, Karen Hobbs, Rachel Billige

We thank all the staff for all they have done during their time at Columbus and wish them all well as they start new ventures.

 Tom Jackson-Owens - We were very sorry to say goodbye to Tom Jackson-Owens who left Columbus on 6th July.  We were delighted that many parents, friends and ex-colleagues were able to join us during his last week to wish him well.  Thanks to everyone’s generous donations Tom was delighted to be able to raise over £250 for Prostate Cancer.  We offer our most sincere thanks to Tom for all he has done for the children and young people who have attended Columbus during these many years and wish him well as he begins his Headship at The Lancaster School.

Gary Corbett – As you also know, we will be saying goodbye to Gary Corbett who has been Assistant Vice-Principal at Columbus for nearly four years on the last day of term.  I hope many of you will have been able to join us for Gary’s ‘Strawberries and Cream’ event and/or leaving assembly.   We thank Gary for all he has done during his time at Columbus and wish him every success as he begins his Headship at Langham Oaks School in Colchester in September.

Term Dates

Pupils and staff finish on Friday 20th July.  Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th September are staff training days and students should return on Thursday 6th September.  Taxis are aware.

Finally, may I wish you all a very happy and restful Summer Holiday and look forward to seeing you all again in the new academic year. 

Karen Clark




posted 25 May 2018, 06:54 by Web Admin

In order to be able to give you a flavour of each half term, I have decided that my blog for parents/carers will be sent out half-termly and I hope you find this informative. During the next half term I will also be inviting you in to School or College for a ‘get to know the Principal’ coffee morning. Please look out for the dates as I look forward to getting to know you if we have not already met.

Erasmus Project

On 19th and 20th March we welcomed four teachers from Finland who were part of the Erasmus Project.  The aim of their trip was to specifically explore the methods of teaching children with Autism. The visiting teachers work  in a school in Finland catering for children with severe disabilities and behaviour problems.

They were also interested in seeing our school environments and how they are adapted for special education. Their school buildings are fairly new, like Columbus, and they were, therefore, interested to find out new ways of using teaching spaces. 


I am pleased to say that the first meetings have taken place with the PCAB (Parent and Community Advisory Board) and the EAB (Education Advisory Board) since my last newsletter.  Actions from these meetings will be taken to the next Governors’ meeting. As the Boards begin to embed we will be mindful of ways to share information with you all.

If anyone is still interested in becoming a member of the PCAB please do let me know via my PA, Pauline Miller ( asap.

Parents’ Evenings

Just a reminder that the next Parents’ Evenings are on School Campus on 14th June and on College Campus on 28th June.  You will receive a letter inviting you to make an appointment to see your child’s teacher(s) very soon.

Mayor’s Charities

Our term as one of the Mayor’s Charities comes to an end at the end of this month.  We believe we have raised over £15,000 for Columbus.  Our thanks go to all involved for their commitment and hard work to achieve this fantastic total.  Our grateful thanks go to The Mayor and Lady Mayoress for their support for Columbus during this time.

London Marathon

As I am sure you will know, Claire Eades completed the London Marathon last month on a very hot and challenging day.  Well done Claire!  To date she has raised the amazing sum of £2,666.70 (including Gift Aid).  There’s still time to sponsor her if you would like to.  Thank you to everyone who supported Claire; it is very much appreciated.


Our final INSET Day of the year is Monday 4th June.  Staff will be receiving their Essex Steps Refresher training, Moving & Positioning Training (new staff) and Speech & Language Training, all delivered by our inhouse trainers.

Parent Questionnaire – May 2018

You will recently have received our Parent Questionnaire either electronically (if you are registered for ParentMail) or as a paper copy.  Please do complete and return your questionnaire so that we can consider your comments.

World Book Day

We finally held World Book Day on the 3rd May after having to postpone it due to the ‘Beast from the East’!!  Thanks to everyone who helped their child to support this event.

Vicky Ford, MP Visit

We were delighted to welcome Vicky Ford, Conservative MP for Chelmsford, to Columbus on Friday 4th May. Vicky enthusiastically joined in with a class warm up dance and joined a group for a sensory story before being whisked off to enjoy coffee and cookies made by pupils in FE! She was joined by a group of staff and pupils from School and College who taught her some Makaton signs to use. Before leaving to practice her signing she invited the School Council to meet with her at the House of Commons.

Vicky will be supporting us in our work with Health and Social Care professionals as well as advocating on Equality issues.

Advertising Boards

We are grateful to Beresfords, Estate Agents in Chelmsford, who are once again sponsoring our ‘C Festival’.  You will have received a letter inviting you to display an advertising board at your property.  For each board displayed Columbus will receive £5.  I do hope you can support us.  To proceed with the advertising boards, you need to live in the CM1, CM2, CM3 postcode areas.  The board will be advertising the Friends of Columbus School and College ‘C Festival’ at College Campus on Saturday 30th June and will be put up by Beresfords prior to the event and taken down a few days after.  Please contact either reception if you would like to take part.  Thank you.

 ‘C Festival’ – Date for your diary

This year’s popular ‘C Festival’ run by Friends of Columbus School and College is taking place on Saturday 30th June from 12pm– 4pm on College Campus.  We look forward to seeing you there.  Let’s hope for a warm, sunny day!

 Tenerife Trip

A group of students from College Campus have just returned from a very successful educational journey to Tenerife, funded by the Tenerife Sur Lions.  Our grateful thanks to the Sur Lions for making this trip possible.

Healthy Schools

I am very proud that Columbus received revalidation of its Healthy School Status at a recent Quality Assurance Group meeting of the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service.  It was agreed that Columbus has continued to meet the criteria required to revalidate as a foundation healthy school.  Well done to all concerned!

New Staff and Staff Leavers

It has been brought to my attention that parents/carers are not always aware when staff leave or we employ new staff.  I will, therefore, be including this information in all future blogs. 

Staff Leavers

Gary Corbett who joined Columbus in October 2014 will be leaving us on 31st August to take up Headship at Langham Oaks SEMH school in Colchester. Whilst Gary very much enjoys working at Columbus he could not pass up an opportunity to further his career. We thank Gary for his dedication and leadership during the past three and a half years and wish him every success in his substantive role.

Tom Jackson-Owens who re-joined Columbus in 2014, will be leaving us this term. Tom expressed interest in a new challenge last academic year and has recently been offered a Headship at Lancaster School in Southend-on-Sea. Tom will take up his new post on 1st September 2018 and we wish him the same successes he achieved and enjoyed at Columbus. We offer our sincere thanks to Tom for his commitment to the children and young people over the years as both Vice-Principal and Acting Principal.

Jamie Newstead who has worked at Columbus for nearly four years both as a PD Teacher and, more recently a Class Teacher in our Early Years Department, will be leaving us at the end of this half term to pursue a new career in the Fire Service.  We have granted Jamie an early release from her contract to commence her training. We thank Jamie for all she has done for the children during her time at Columbus and wish her every success in her new job.

Rachel Chandler has worked at Columbus as a Learning Support Assistant since January and has taken the decision to spend more time with her family.  We wish her well for the future.

Rosie Wackett has worked at Columbus as a Learning Support Assistant in Reception class since May 2016 and has now gained a position as a Health Care Assistant. We wish her every success for the future.

Vicky Waller has worked at Columbus as a Learning Support Assistant since September 2014 and is moving to Norfolk to begin a new chapter in her life. We wish her the very best of luck for the future.

New Staff

We currently have a number of Supply Learning Support Assistants ‘in the pipeline’ and they will begin their duties as soon as all appropriate safeguarding checks have been carried out.

 Half Term Dates

Monday 28th May to Friday 1st June (Monday 4th June is an INSET Day).  Pupils return on Tuesday 5th June.  Taxis are aware.

 Last Day of Term

A reminder that the last day of term is Friday 20th July.

Social Media

We continue to see some great achievements for our children and young people. If you follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter (@ColumbusSchool), I am sure you will have read the articles and seen the photos of the children and young people hard at work and indeed enjoying themselves in a range of learning activities.


Our Amazon Wishlist is constantly updated.  If you would like to browse please visit   Thank you.   Please remember to support Columbus via Easyfundraising.  If you have not already done so, you can register at  Thank you to everyone who has helped us raise nearly £3,000 to date!

Karen Clark


PRINCIPAL’S BLOG – February 2018

posted 5 Mar 2018, 05:36 by Web Admin   [ updated 19 Mar 2018, 01:16 ]

Having spent the last 40 days getting to know the children and their families, staff and our community partners, I believe that Columbus School and College is supported extremely well by its families and friends. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the new Parent and Community Advisory Board (PCAB) with parents during the Parent Consultation Committee meeting and am delighted that we now have a small group of members for the Board. The new PCAB is an opportunity to create exciting initiatives to further enhance the provision at the Academy. There is a commitment to attend termly meetings and the board will report to the Governing Body. If you are still interested in becoming a member but have not let us know yet then please do so via my PA, Pauline Miller ( by the end of next week (Friday 16th March). We will be sending out further information to the members in due course. 

Along with the formation of the PCAB there is also a new Employee Advisory Board (EAB) which will be meeting regularly to explore new initiatives and report to the Governing Body. I am delighted that we have representation across the whole academy for the EAB and I am looking forward to working with the two boards over the coming months.

I have almost finished meeting every member of staff individually since I started in January and am looking forward to meeting many more parents/carers at future events such as Parents’ Evenings and Friends’ events. Last month I had the honour of meeting the Mayor of Chelmsford during one of the Mayor’s charity events raising funds for Columbus, and am looking forward to seeing many of you at the next events.

We continue to see some great achievements for our children and young people. If you follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter (@ColumbusSchool), I am sure you will have read the articles and seen the photos of the children and young people hard at work and indeed enjoying themselves in a range of learning activities.

We are currently planning our next INSET day, Thursday the 29th March. There will be a training focus for staff on teaching & learning as well as essential medical and care. Columbus teachers will be joining Pioneer School teachers in Basildon to further develop their skills and knowledge in teaching Mathematics. Learning Support Assistants are training with therapists to enhance their skillset in Communication and Music.

Chinese Visitors

On 23rd January I was very pleased to host a delegation of 12 visitors from China who were in Chelmsford for a very short time en route to the BETT Show in London. They were very interested in our assistive technologies and toured College Campus to see our sensory rooms as well as observing the school in action.

SEND Music Project

On 5th February I met with Hassina Khan to introduce herself and the project that Essex Music Service is working on for special schools through a grant from Youth Music. I was interested to learn how successful this project has been following the conference launch which I organised with Charly Richardson, Head of Essex Music Services at Columbus five years ago! The project is almost at completion with Columbus having one of the last project sessions, focussing on inclusive singing, in the Summer Term. This project has enabled an increasing number of music specialists to develop their skills to meet the needs of pupils in special schools as well as those of their mainstream peers.

World Book Day – 1st March

Unfortunately, due to the adverse weather conditions resulting in the school being closed, World Book Day had to be postponed. We will be rearranging this and a new date and this will be confirmed in due course.

Visit of Local MP, Vicky Ford

We were contacted by one of our local MPs, Vicky Ford (Conservative MP for Chelmsford), recently regarding a visit to Columbus and I was looking forward to welcoming her on the 2nd March. Unfortunately this was cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions and will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Parents’ Evenings

A reminder that the next Parents’ Evenings are 8th March for School Campus and 15th March for College Campus. You will receive a letter regarding booking appointments in due course. This letter will be sent slightly later than usual, again due to the school being closed for three days. I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can.

Parents’ Social Events

Please do come along to our Parents’ Social Events if you are able to do so. We will send out more information about each event nearer the date but here is a reminder of the remaining dates for this academic year: 6th March, 15th May, 3rd July. We look forward to seeing you.


As parents/carers will be aware, these continue to be very difficult times for schools from a financial point of view and we are continually trying to find new ways to fundraise. As always, a huge thank you for your ongoing support for our efforts. Here is a quick update of donations and support we have received recently and a reminder of the ways in which people can support us should they wish to. We extend very grateful thanks to all of our supporters for their ongoing commitment to Columbus.

Commsoft have recently made a donation of £550. This donation is being used to purchase Bee-Bots for KS3. Over the half term holidays, a new shelter was installed in the Early Years/KS1 playground which has been donated by the Moody Fund, via The Essex Community Foundation. This will enable our PMLD students to enjoy their outside space whatever the weather. 

Gepp and Sons, Solicitors in Chelmsford, recently made a donation to us of £1,050 following their fundraising over the Christmas period. This included festive activities at their offices and a Carol Concert in High Chelmer Shopping Centre in Chelmsford. The concert was also supported by our FE students. This donation from Gepps is being used to purchase giant bean bags (two for each campus), Play-Doh and kinetic sand for Early Years/KS1, trampettes for KS3, a talking microwave for FE and some sensory resources for KS4 from our Amazon Wishlist.

We are very lucky to have someone running in the London Marathon in April to raise funds for Columbus once again this year. Claire Eades, one of our Administration Assistants, obtained a place personally has very kindly agreed to nominate Columbus as her chosen charity. We are very grateful to her for doing this. If you would like to donate or if you have any business links who might be interested in supporting Claire in this immense endeavour you can do so via:

If you are able to, please remember to support Columbus via Easyfundraising. If you have not already done so, you can register at Thank you to everyone who has helped us raise an amazing £2,728.17 to date!

Karen Clark


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. 


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