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From The Principal…

posted 12 Feb 2016, 05:43 by James Dorey

I can hardly believe that we are almost half way through the academic year! Christmas seems only a whisper ago!

This month has seen some great achievements for our youngsters. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, I am sure you will have read the reports and seen the photos of our children and young people hard at work and indeed enjoying themselves in a range of learning activities.

February has brought a number of interesting and varied visitors to Columbus. These have included the Head of the Governing Body for ‘Table Tennis England’ who was so impressed by the social interaction skills, not to mention the table cricket skills, of our Key Stage 2 pupils! His visit was followed by a kind donation of two table tennis tables which will be allocated to each campus to begin to enrich lunchtime social and learning experiences for our young people.

Dr Maggie Hoerger from Bangor University, Wales has also visited this month. She spent a day observing the developments we have made in the setting up of our Autism ABA classes and is advising and guiding us in partnership with our appointed ABA consultants to ensure we are delivering our very best service for those with Autism. She kindly presented a talk to a number of our LSAs on how we can best understand and support those with Autism and is planning to put us in touch with a group of seven other SEND settings who are working in a similar way so that best practice can be shared.

We hope that this partnership may lead to an official research paper to assess and validate our work.

Local Councillors, Galley, Scott, Holloway and De Vries have also continued to show their support and interest in what we do at Columbus through visits to the school, to help me in making approaches in continually improving our curriculum experiences as well as helping me to help the families of our young people with various challenges their families face. We thank them for their pragmatic and effective involvement in our academy and the lives of our families.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all parents and carers who have completed their Parent Questionnaire which is sent out twice a year and in addition to the ‘Parent View’ questionnaire from Ofsted. The overwhelming return was a positive one with some helpful and I feel, very fair comments on things we can improve either when supporting families or when working with the children and young people. The results of the questionnaire will be published on our website, reported to our Governors and any improvement actions to be made, addressed throughout the team.

Thank you for all the kind comments that were made about our wonderful Teachers and Learning Support Assistants. They truly do a tremendous job and I was thrilled to see that so many parents wanted them to be recognised and thanked for all that they do.

We are continually on the look out for new opportunities and new partnerships that will help to enrich and support the lives of families. One of our newest partnerships is with the Hamelin Trust who are leading a team called “U Matter 2”, which aims to set up parent groups to reduce isolation for families and also offer opportunities to socialise or gain additional support in the home setting.

Our first Columbus/Hamelin event is a Wellbeing Day taking place on 27th February on the School Campus! If this is something that would interest you and you would like the opportunity to learn more about the support group as well as meet other parents of children or young people with additional needs, please contact 01277 653889.

I was delighted to attend the recent meeting of the Parent Consultation Committee which was set up at Columbus last academic year. It is always important to me to seek the views of parents and to learn what we can do to be more effective for families as a whole as well as individual learners. The meeting was a great opportunity for me to hear from a number of parents about their concerns as well as what they wanted celebrated in terms of what we do well and their young person’s achievements.

Columbus continues to get a great deal of interest from local businesses and community groups. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank IFDS Basildon, Galaxy Hot Chocolate, Dean Jones of Broadway Painting and Jeff Satwick of Scaffolding Access Ltd, for their kind donations to Columbus. Their donations have gone towards developing recreational activities for the young people at lunchtimes and therapy interventions across the School and College.

Their kindness and thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.

Columbus is looking forward to hosting the Power House Games into the next term and a half where our youngsters will compete in eight different sporting events with friends from other local special needs schools. Our Columbus students are always very gracious and welcoming when hosting such events and usually come away with a number of different awards which I can show off about!

I look forward to updating you all and sharing some photographs of our young people’s achievements in due course.

Ginny Bellard