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From The Principal…

posted 11 Jun 2014, 09:55 by Richard Sparks   [ updated 11 Jun 2014, 09:56 ]


Progress and Continual Improvement 

Welcome to the June Blog. It is at this time of year that our thoughts turn to the Academy’s achievements during the last three terms and ways in which we want to try to improve and deliver an even better learning experience for our children and young people and a better support service for our families. 

Teachers are currently writing their Annual Reports for the pupils in their classes and identifying ways in which we can move their learning on even further and teachers are having their performance appraisals to celebrate their achievements too and to identify ways in which they want to become better practitioners. I am reflecting upon ways in which I wish to improve the learning experience as well as the working experience for the Columbus Team as a whole and the Board of Governors are exploring ways to extend their team in order that they continue to monitor my performance and that of the teaching and learning team. 

Part of the performance review process has been asking families and staff at Columbus to complete a questionnaire so they can tell me where they feel we are doing well and where they see we could improve. I thank you all for taking the time to complete these and for offering us encouragement in areas where we have performed well and suggestions for ways in which we can get better. I will be sharing staff and family thoughts and suggestions with Governors in order that we can continue to develop the learning and working experience here at Columbus into the new academic year and beyond. 

Into the new academic year, our over-arching priority will be to continue to strive to ensure all our learners reach their full potential. We will be looking closely at the ways in which we assess our children and young people and how we set them challenging and aspirational targets. We will also be looking to develop the learning experience with the introduction of therapeutic drama experiences, the commencement of an Art Therapy Pilot Project in the FE Department and extension of the project, if successful. 

I will also be taking time with the Key Stage Leaders to reflect on our Academy Improvement Plan to see how much we have achieved, how this has benefitted our young people and their families and where we will work to improve in the year ahead. I look forward to sharing this with you early next academic year and seeking your thoughts and suggestions on this plan. 

Safety, Happiness and Wellbeing 

As parents and carers, one of our highest priorities is to ensure that our children and young people are happy and safe. Part of this priority is a responsibility for Columbus to provide a rich and diverse learning and social experience, to include our learners in a wide range of different opportunities in school and the local community in order that they are invigorated for learning and motivated to engage. 

We will be welcoming a group of Key Stage 3 students to the College Campus over the next few weeks as they prepare to transition into the Key Stage 4 Department and I look forward to welcoming parents visiting the new teachers and learning locations. 

Refresher training for staff on Safeguarding and Child Protection is planned this half term to ensure that the newest legislation and guidance for us as professionals is familiar to the whole team and to ensure that your child is safe and secure. 

Recent Positive Intervention training that took place for all staff on the 22nd and 23rd May has also been of great benefit to the Columbus team when addressing the more physically challenging situations we sometimes face day to day. It was wonderful to be able to take the time to reflect on our youngsters as individuals, to analyse the times in the school day and the specific situations they sometimes find difficult and learn about ways in which we can support them with the highest level of effectiveness and care. 


Recent exciting activities this last month have been an overnight stay at Bradwell Outdoor Centre for a group of Key Stage 3 pupils. For some this was their first time away from home overnight and a challenge in itself for these youngsters. The two day experience 

saw our young people enjoy a sailing trip to Mersea Island, Beach Kiting, Crabbing and Archery. We hope to make further similar opportunities available in the new academic year. Thank you to all the staff who gave up their weekend to enable this wonderful opportunity to take place. 

Work experience opportunities continue to be extended for our young people based on the College Campus. Two young ladies have started work experience supporting fellow learners who require additional support during music and movement sessions while another placement is due to be taken up at another local special school where one of our students can become involved in sports coaching. 

We were delighted to receive a new replacement minibus this term, enabling us to improve the quality of support and the quality of the experience for our youngsters when they are involved in community based learning. 

We are very excited to be working with ‘Dance Digital’ on their new “FormXtended” research and development project. The aim of the project is to use the work they do with our young people to create a new inclusive SEND digital app that enables physical and technical development in a learners dance skill. Columbus has been chosen as Dance Digital’s main research school and the project is already enabling our youngsters based on the School Campus to experience a variety of dance activities and new technology used to help children explore dance. 

Support for Families 

The Friends of Columbus School and College will be one of two named charities to benefit from the local family music festival, Walthamstock on 5th July. The event is held on the playing fields of Great Waltham Primary School, Great Waltham (just North of Chelmsford). We hope to have a stand at the event and also opportunities for some of our Columbus singers or musicians to perform. This event will replace our annual Summer Fair because of the reduced capacity of the Friends fundraising committee to put on a full event this year. If you are interested in volunteering your time and becoming Chairperson for the Friends Committee, please do contact me at the school. 

Tickets for Walthamstock can only be purchased at or at the Walthambury Store, Great Waltham and none will be available on the gate on the day of the event so, if you would like to attend, please buy your tickets soon. I am told they are selling fast! The day promises to be an exciting one with a range of children’s activities, a bouncy castle, art and craft activities, yoga and food stalls. We hope to see you there! 

A parent from the College Campus has asked that I share an update with families on the plans for a potential closure of the respite care settings so many families access to support their young person in order that the family can have a short break. 

A petition has been launched to share local objection to this proposal and almost 1,000 signatories Essex-wide were gathered. For the time being, Essex County Council has suspended the closure proposal with a view to making a final decision in January 2015. Some parents continue to lobby local councillors to ensure that the issue remains upmost in their mind and they have been very grateful for the support you have given them throughout this process. 

Thank you’s! 

I would like to thank Summerhill Garden Centre, Billericay, for their recent kind donation to the school. The staff at Summerhill have given us a range of plants and sensory related items for our sensory garden and outdoor social spaces where so many of our children and young people enjoy quiet time with their friends. Thank you Summerhill for your kindness! 

I would also like to thank The Friends Fundraising Committee for their kind donation of an Acheeva Learning Station which benefits so many of our physically disabled children. You may have seen information about this piece of equipment in my earlier Blogs. The Acheeva arrives on Friday and we are hoping that the local press will be in attendance to take a photo of one of our students “testing it out”!! Look out for us in the Essex Chronicle in the coming weeks. 

Thank you to Gadsby Wicks, Chelmsford Solicitors, for your kind donation of £2000 towards our Christopher the Columbus Carrot Fundraiser – We hope to have some Christopher the Columbus Carrots on sale soon at our receptions on School Campus and College Campus. Please do all keep tweeting, taking ‘selfies’ with Christopher and making your donations. We have already raised £2377.66 towards our therapy fund and the Walthamstock festival will also help us to build up further funds for us to continue to develop our provision! 

Until July… 

Ginny Bellard