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From The Principal - 13/05/2014

posted 9 Jun 2014, 03:30 by James Dorey   [ updated 11 Jun 2014, 09:59 by Richard Sparks ]


Somehow we find ourselves already into the Summer Term and rapidly approaching the half term mark!

Despite this being such a short half term, Columbus continues to strive onwards and upwards to ensure the best provision for its children and young people.

The themes of our initiatives and developments this term focus very much around equalities and ensuring that our young people and their families are able to access the level of support they require socially and educationally. I have requested that our Family Support Advocates (formerly known as our Family Support Workers) contact a wide range of Columbus families whose sons and daughters represent the full range of education and care need within Columbus. Families will be contacted in order to invite them to join a Family Consultation Committee (a key project you may have noticed on our Academy Improvement Plan) which will facilitate families voicing the support requirements they have, the hopes and aspirations they have for their children and the ways in which we can continue to work in even closer partnership to not only champion the SEND agendas but also to promote and celebrate the achievements of our learners.

Look out for invitations from the Family Advocacy Team in the coming weeks.

Enabling our young people to have a voice and to help them to understand where they "fit" into Democratic Britain is also an initiative we are revisiting this term. I am very much looking forward to meeting with the School and College Council and hearing their views on their day to day experiences at Columbus, discovering ways in which they want us to help them to achieve their ambitions, hopes and dreams and identifying new methods to improve learning and life outcomes for all our youngsters. Governors have been invited to join me in hearing the youngsters’ views so they may hold me to account and challenge me and the Columbus team in delivering their requests.

Democratic Britain and the voice we have within society are at the forefront of my mind as I prepare to meet with Councillor Dick Madden (Conservative) next week. I am looking forward to continuing the dialogue with him about the plight of many of our young people when they reach the age of 19 only to find a lack of provision suitable for them to attend. I am also looking forward to hearing more about local policy surrounding proposed closures of respite care settings in and around Chelmsford and will continue to labour the importance of these services remaining open for families.

Equality of learning and social experience is everything we stand for here at Columbus and, as always, the Vice- Principal, the Heads of Learning and I remain reflective about how we can ensure that the children and young people who attend Columbus receive the highest quality learning and support experience. You will be aware from previous blogs I have written that we strive to ensure that the range of learning and life opportunities our young people can access matches (and if possible exceeds) what their mainstream peers have available to them in their schools and colleges.

With this philosophy in mind, we pursue this month opportunities for apprenticeships at Columbus in the areas of Catering and Sports and also apprenticeships with prestigious hair salon, Toni and Guy. I look forward to updating you on these new opportunities in the coming months.

Autism specific assessments continue to be rolled out across the School and the College to ensure that we are examining in very fine detail, the specific needs of these very individual learners. I am excited about the ways in which these assessments will enable us to demonstrate progress as well as focus the ways in which we develop our curriculum and learning locations. Parents of children and young people with ASD will be updated on their young person’s assessments at their Annual Reviews and Parents Evenings later this term.

Extending the way in which we access The Arts at Columbus continues to be a focus as we plan creative days with friends and colleagues from St. John Payne and Chelmer Valley High School. Look out for new displays around the College Campus showcasing the work we have achieved together!

We look forward to welcoming friends from Melbourne Primary School and Boreham Primary School to interact with our children on the School Campus this term - photographs of their experiences and achievements will be shared via our website throughout the coming weeks.

We update you with great pride this month on the Panathlon event that took place at Columbus on 1st May in the Sports Hall. Four other Essex special schools were in attendance and, in some cases, had four times the number of youngsters represented in certain events. Despite this challenge, one particular competitor, Jamel Martin in Class 11, fended off the challenge from all others to win the distance race event. Jamel, very well done indeed, we are so proud of you! Resilience and determination shone through again!

(To find out more about the Panathlon charity (which has been running since 1996 and has raised in excess of £5,000,000 for the good of disability in sports) go to

"Thank you's and Congratulations!"

I would like to celebrate a number of donations to Columbus this month and thank most sincerely both local business and our own Columbus fundraising committee, "The Friends".

I was delighted to receive a cheque for £2,000 from Chelmsford solicitors, Gadsby Wicks who have donated to our "Christopher the Columbus Carrot" fundraiser. I am sure many of you will have heard of our new mascot who was raising money for the school throughout the Easter break. The initiative has continued further into this term with a number of students, their families, staff and friends of the school donating in exchange for a ‘selfie’ with

Christopher the Columbus Carrot being posted on Twitter! Follow us on Twitter @ColumbusSchool and support us too at

Thank you Gadsby Wicks for your kindness. We hope that you will be able to visit us soon so we can thank you all in person and share with you a little more of what we do here at Columbus.

Thank you to those of you who either took a school Christopher or even made your own to take on holiday and on days out with you! To date, Christopher has been to Spain, London, Southend Adventure Island, Florida, Columbus, America, Ghana and Scotland!

Thank you to those of you who donated your pocket money too! We are very, very grateful!  Currently our fund stands at £2,372.66p! Let's keep on trying!

I must also take this opportunity to thank most sincerely, Debbie and Alan Rayner who have recently resigned from the Friends Fundraising Committee. Their dedication over recent years and their presentation of such high quality and indeed successful events have enabled many thousands of pounds to be raised to benefit our youngsters. Their most recent achievement is the donation of an ‘Acheeva’ work station for the School Campus which is due to arrive any day now.

Unfortunately, the Fundraising Committee now finds itself without a Chair or a Treasurer. If you would be willing to take up the mantle and support our marvellously dedicated team of fundraisers to continue their great work, please do let me know.

Debbie and Alan, we thank you for the hours you have dedicated to our school, for all the fun and happy memories we have shared along the way and for the positive "can do" approach you have brought to every event and challenge we have faced when putting on the fundraising events of recent years.

Ginny Bellard