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PRINCIPAL’S BLOG – Autumn Term 2018

posted 22 Oct 2018, 02:30 by Web Admin

Pupil and Learning News

We have started this academic year with pupils settling well into their new classes and a wealth of learning experiences underway as well as many extra curricula activities and events. I am pleased to share some of our current projects and hope that you will support us with these: Our Shakespeare production team are hard at work rehearsing for the November performance at the Civic Theatre; we are planning a project with The Laughter Specialists also for November and Makaton training for parents is being planned with our Speech and Language Therapists for the Spring Term.  Last week Louise Doe, Tracey Plane and I attended the Jack Petchey Awards at the Civic Theatre to proudly watch two of our nine award winners receive their awards and Harvest Festival was celebrated on both campuses with a service led by Reverend Diane from the local Broomfield Church.  Our connections with the local mainstream secondary schools have already started with an ever-increasing number of students naming Columbus as first choice for their work experience to socialise and interact with pupils at School and College, engaging in paired reading project at college and turn-taking games at school.  This provides a great opportunity for pupils at Columbus to mix with mainstream pupils and is supportive of our inclusive philosophy.   

New Pupils

We warmly welcome a large group of new starters, mainly in Nursery and Reception.  This is the largest group we have had the pleasure of receiving for a number of years. I am delighted to share with you that the children in Early Years have experienced a remarkable few weeks, with some nursery aged children already happily leaving their parents for the first time and all beginning to settle to the routines and expectations of their new environment and enjoying exploring their new space. It is a pleasure to see so many pupils settling into school so well.  

Columbus Ethos and Culture – the things we believe in

Over the summer break the senior leaders and I worked together, reflecting on the past year and working on plans for the years ahead.  During this time I became aware that many parents and staff will not be familiar with the history of Columbus nor possibly the ethos and values that drive all of our thinking.  I will attempt to explain this  here by sharing some of the history of Columbus and hope you find this interesting and helpful.

When the school building was first conceived it was designed into different ‘zones’ associated with a distinct ‘phases’ of learning; Early Years & Key Stage 1 (Years 1 & 2), Key Stage 2 (Years 3, 4, 5, 6) and Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8, 9) with Key Stage 4 (Years 10, 11) and Key Stage 5 (Years 12, 13, 14) situated on the College site.  This was purposely designed so that the pupils could experience a ‘rites of passage’ through their educational time at Columbus; in the past too many ‘all through’ special schools were not able to provide this and therefore children in special schools were often denied the opportunities to experience the ‘growing’ which their mainstream peers were able to experience. It is one of the ways in which Columbus pioneered a new way of thinking about special education.

Each phase was created with a theme associated with our namesake ‘Columbus’ and the learning journey of discovery that we are all on. Early Years and KS1 – Water, KS2 – Wildlife, KS3 – Forest, KS4 – Earth, KS5 – Space and Beyond. Each phase had a phase leader, known as a Head of Learning,  for a Key Stage. Over the course of time the cohorts of pupils have changed so that in the past few years pupils have not been based in their key stage area.  For example, pupils based in KS3 - Forest Zone were not years 7, 8, 9 but a mix of Years 4, 5, 6, 7. All teachers continue to follow the appropriate curriculum and teach according to a pupil’s academic ability.

In order to make this easier for parents and for professionals working with us we felt it was time to move away from ‘naming’ the departments ‘key stages’ and to divide them with a name indicating the journey through the school.  This does not affect any entitlement to their curriculum nor does it mean children will ‘miss a year’ of education. It is simply a way of us dividing departments to ensure the pupils and young people all have equal access to the wonderful facilities we are lucky enough to have at our disposal and a sharing of expertise across different cohorts. All departments are led by a Phase Leader (PL): Nursery, Reception and Year 1 - Early Years, Years 2, 3, 4 - Lower School, Years 4, 5, 6 - Middle School, Years 7, 8, 9, 10 - Upper School, Years 11, 12, 13, 14 - FE (due to be renamed).

As always we consider the needs of each and every pupil. 

Staffing Matters

Interviews have been held during the first weeks of this term and I am pleased to be able to share the following internal appointments:

Assistant Principals

Louise Doe has been appointed as an Assistant Principal and is currently based at Columbus School.

Tracey Plane has been appointed as an Assistant Principal and is currently based at Columbus College.

Assistant Phase Leaders (the role of the APL is to support the Phase Leaders)

The following staff have been appointed as Assistant Phase Leaders:

James Blake, Victoria Beattie, Jacalyn Eyres

Cover Supervisors

The following staff have been appointed as Cover Supervisors:

Peige Aarons, Kelly Bradley, Chelsea Dixon Lianne Januszka, Katie Osborne,  Nichola Plane, Kerry Weeks

Physical Development/Swim LSA

The following staff have been appointed as PD/Swim LSAs for part of their working week:

Nichola Plane, Polly Valks

Staff Leavers

The following staff have left since my last Blog.  We thank them for all they have done for the children and young people during their time at Columbus and wish them every success and happiness for the future:

Lauren Blazer, Chloe Hall, Siobhan Humm, Barbora Kent, Wendy Prince, Laura Sterry all left during the summer break.

Natasha Evans, Laura Payne and Davina Harris are due to leave at the end of half term.

Sharon Wright is due to leave in early November.

New Staff

We have interviewed for Supply Learning Support Assistants since we returned from the summer break and I am pleased to let you know that the following people have been appointed:

Phie French, Jordan Hopper, Michelle Gregory,  Prajna Poonacha, Michelle Spicer , Emily Vincent, Linda Whittlesey  We look forward to them joining the team once the necessary checks have been completed.

We have also held two days of interviews for Apprentice Learning Support Assistants and I am pleased to inform you that we have successfully secured high calibre appointments from a large field of candidates. They will be receiving extensive training during their course and I am confident this new initiative will serve the school well.

Baby News

We were delighted to hear that Orla Thornton (Teacher in Upper School) gave birth to a baby girl on 11th August.  Olivia Patricia weighed 9lbs 1oz and Ann Samson (FE Department) had a little boy during the summer holidays.  Ethan Louis Smith was born on  17th  September at 10.45am and weighed 8lb 9oz.  Congratulations Orla and Ann!

Year Planner/Term Dates

The Columbus Year Planner for 2018/2019 showing all term dates, holidays, INSET Days and significant events has been sent to all parents/carers.  The most up-to-date version of this will always be posted on our website More information about all events will, of course, be sent out nearer the dates.

Parent and Community Advisory Board (PCAB) and Employee Advisory Board (EAB) Meetings

PCAB and  EAB meetings have been held during October. The PCAB has three key objectives: Community - The PCAB will act as a link between the school and its local community, ensuring that children benefit from local opportunities for learning, development and employment.  Concerns - The PCAB is an independent point of contact to help people find the appropriate processes to communicate their concerns. Celebrations - championing the strengths and achievements of the academy, recognising that success breeds success, and it is in everyone's interest to promote the reputation of the academy and its pupils.

Annually we invite anyone who is interested in joining the PCAB to submit their nomination via

The EAB provides an opportunity for a group of staff to come together to recognise and celebrate positive developments and to raise any concerns that they may have.

Parents’ Evenings

School  - 22nd November

College - 29th November

The usual letters asking you to make appointments will be sent out in the next few weeks.

INSET Days 4th and 5th September

During INSET days staff all benefitted from a number of essential training modules. Every member of the teaching team is trained annually in moving and positioning children and young adults. All staff are trained in general Epilepsy awareness and key staff undergo further training in medical interventions. During the two days, teams also met together for planning and preparation. Another two days are planned next half term (29th October and 30th November) to focus on curriculum, safeguarding, lifeguard training and Essex Steps (which is a system designed to provide high quality understanding and training in the management of behaviour and the prevention of behaviour from escalating).


Lower, Middle, Upper and FE pupils had individual and class photos taken recently by our new company ‘Special Moments Photographic’.   Early Years children will have their photographs taken on 22nd November.  A letter will be sent to parents/carers in due course.

Fundraising by The Angel, Broomfield

We are very grateful to the staff of The Angel Pub in Broomfield who held a great fundraising event for Columbus at the beginning of the summer holidays.   Anyone who went along will have had a great time on a bright and blustery day. They raised an amazing £700.  Our sincere thanks to them for organising this event.

Social Media

We continue to see some great achievements for our children and young people. If you follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter (@ColumbusSchool), I am sure you will have read the articles and seen the photos of the children and young people hard at work and indeed enjoying themselves in a range of learning activities.


Our Amazon Wish List is constantly updated.  If you would like to browse please visit   Thank you.   Please remember to also support Columbus via Easyfundraising.  If you have not already done so, you can register at  Thank you to everyone who has helped us raise nearly £3,000 to date!

And finally, thank you to everyone who managed to join us for their child’s open class afternoon; I hope you all found this helpful and enjoyable. It has been a busy first half term full of learning and fun, and I am really looking forward to seeing all the learning opportunities and experiences the teaching teams are planning for the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas Productions!

I wish you all a wonderful half term break with your child and look forward to seeing you all at Parents’ Evening or one of our planned events.   

Karen Clark