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 email@example.com
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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/179892245479598/ They can also be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org 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