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From The Principal…

posted 5 Dec 2014, 03:24 by James Dorey

A Level Playing Field…

 The last month has been a particularly exciting time for Columbus with our young people being recognised for their achievements. It has also been a time where they have been presented with opportunities to have their thoughts and opinions heard in the wider community.

I was honoured to be invited to meet at the Headquarters of the Essex Coalition for Disabled People (ECDP) on the  26th November to speak with a range of colleagues and community partners interested in raising the profile of disability equalities in our local area. Pat Russell, Head of Office for Disability Issues with the Department for Work and Pensions attended the event as representative for Mark Harper MP, Minister of State for Disability. She was very interested to hear about the many and varied concerns as well as the hopes and aspirations that people with disabilities have in our local area and spoke very highly of the excellent partnerships that exist between business and the service industry. I hope that perhaps she and Mark Harper might visit Columbus in the New Year to hear more about what our young people and their families aspire to achieve and access.

 Jonathan Bone, a Year 14 student in our Further Education Department, accompanied me to the event to ensure that our Columbus young people were represented fully. He spoke very ably in front of the audience – raising issues about work experience and college life that related not just to himself but for those learners who have more complex needs. He asked for equal opportunities to access further education for all youngsters as well as the right to live independently and continue learning into adult life.

I was very proud when he challenged a colleague from Essex County Council on some points raised about the closure of respite care settings; telling her a little more about what he thought was right for young people like himself and what he and his friends needed by way of support as they enter adulthood.

Congratulations Jonathan. I was very proud to have you accompany me on this visit and to observe you advocating for your peers.

On the 1st December, Columbus was awarded the 2014 Active Essex School of the Year Award. This was in recognition of the range of sporting events and achievements that our young people take part in and often excel at. I was particularly proud that Columbus had been judged in line with a number of other mainstream schools in Essex – proving that we can achieve on a level playing field alongside our friends and colleagues who work and learn in the mainstream setting. For me, this is a wonderful example of equality of opportunity and inclusion!

Thanks and congratulations go to Tracey Plane, Head of Learning for Physical Development (P.E) at Columbus, and her team for their tremendous contributions to the sporting experiences at the academy. Their commitment to providing a wide and varied experience of sports and sporting events ensure our young people achieve their full potential. 

A long standing 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 26th November to share a little more about the work we do with our very special children and young people. The group were fascinated to hear about the remarkable work of the staff and indeed the achievements of the young people and the evening culminated in me being presented with a cheque for £3,500 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 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. I hope that the Fuchsia Society will be able to visit Columbus in the New Year to talk more about the way we will maximise the use of the funds they have raised for us and to strengthen the partnership further for the future. Our sincere thanks go to the group for their extended interest in and support of our academy.

This years’ Christmas Fayre was a complete success again with so many families and supporters of the school attending. I was very pleased to award Kerry Lambert and Alfie Ridler a framed copy of their winning entries into the Christmas Card Competition and to once again revel in the talents of Charlotte Fieldson who performed two songs for everyone. Dance 21 joined us and entertained all who attended with a range of dance performances. Thomas Turrell, an ex-student of Columbus and co-choreographer for Dance 21, will be joining the Columbus team in the New Year to help me in developing performing arts experiences and opportunities for our young people.

Sincerest thanks go to Alan and Debbie Rayner and The Friends of Columbus School and College who once again put on what I believe was one of the best Christmas events to date. Their efforts have been justly rewarded with proceeds in excess of £2,500 being raised. My heartfelt thanks goes to them all!

Whilst on the subject of Christmas, I must also thank our friends at Abercorn Plant and Garden Centre, Beehive Lane, Chelmsford and "Christmas all Wrapped Up" in Aythorpe Roding who have donated Christmas trees again this year. The young people love decorating them and preparing for the festivities. I thank both these companies for their kindness.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year with your friends and families. 2014 has been another wonderful year for Columbus with the amazing things our marvelous children and young people achieve and the tremendous commitment, love and care that our staff show to each and every one of them each and every day.

We will go into 2015 committed to retaining our Outstanding status and determined to deliver the best service we can to our young people and their families.

With very best wishes to you all,

Ginny Bellard.