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A Day in the Life of...


posted 11 Jul 2017, 07:35 by Web Admin


08:50 – 09:30: Morning Tutor Time

The students of FE5 begin to arrive off of their taxis with many now walking independently to class. Once all present in class, there are a number of important jobs that the students take responsibility for across the week. Money is checked for their daily activities, key equipment is organised and most importantly the lunch orders are taken. Once tutor jobs are done, our students often choose a morning activity to complete. Some of our tutor time highlights are Austin independently constructing and remote controlling a Hornsby train set, Billy and Gabriel driving a World War 1 model tank replica around the outside area and witnessing the daily outfit from Freddie’s fancy dress collection…policeman, cowboy, prisoner, Mrs Brown and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast to name but a few!


09:30-2:30: Outdoor Pursuits

Wednesday is one of FE5’s days out in the community. The students read through a PowerPoint of their session routine in class and then begin to collect their money and equipment. Today is Archery at Skreens Park. The group gets a mini-bus and arrives promptly, ready to start their session. This is led by the excellent instructors who engage really well with the group. The FE5 students love a competition and quickly want to hit the bullseye with their arrows to score 10 points! Rees was the star archer today, firing his arrows accurately including popping balloons attached around the targets. Everyone in the class made great progress throughout the activity improving with every arrow fired.

After the activity, the class enjoys their packed lunches outside in the sunshine amongst the peaceful surroundings of the countryside. With lunches finished, the group plays some sports in the afternoon. It is great to see Rees and Freddie playing football, Oliver and Joseph practising tennis and cricket and the class in general interacting and socialising together.


3:00-3:15: Afternoon Tutor Time

The class gets ready for taxi time with Oliver collecting the taxi list and Jade collecting the letters ready to be handed out. Students help tidy up, put away any activity money and then head off independently to taxis.


FE5 are a great class and enjoy anything active. All of the class staff enjoy working with the students and are particularly forward to helping them get Hallam’s Café up and running as well as supporting them in the Post 16 Panathalon in the next few weeks.   


Amy Hayes & James Blake

FE5 Tutors

Bradley Smith, FE2

posted 29 Jun 2017, 01:18 by Web Admin


My name is Bradley Smith, I am 17 years old and in FE2 at the College Campus. My friends are James, Lauren, Ethan and Ewan.

I work hard and like to do well in class. I like going to the gym, my favourite things are the bikes. My favourite lesson is Enterprise and Art where I really enjoy designing and painting a bowl. I like doing jobs around college and enjoy helping my tutors by changing the screens on PowerPoint slides.

At the weekends I like going to McDonalds. My favourite meal is a cheese burger, chips, coke and for desert a Mc Flurry. However, my all-time favourite meal is roast pork and Yorkshire pudding.

I also like feeding the ducks in my walks around Danbury Park and enjoy bowling with my mum (and I always win!). I enjoy watching films and my favourite film is Toy Story. At home I also like sleeping, and using the foot spa in college!

Sharon Wright and Leon Samuel helped me put this together

Name - Bradley Smith

Job Title - Member of the Student Council for FE2


posted 12 Jun 2017, 00:16 by James Dorey

I started work at Columbus in September 2013 following 10 years as the Receptionist/First Aider at Springfield Primary and two years as a Maths specialist LSA at Newlands Spring Primary. I can be found at School Campus reception desk, although occasionally I can be seen walking around the campus trying to locate classes or members of staff when they are away from their class base.

As School Campus receptionist, I have a wide and varied role including all first contact made with the school so hopefully, I exude a calm and approachable demeanour. I greet all visitors to the campus and ensure that they are made to feel welcome and that Reception is a small, calm oasis in which parents and visitors can relax. I also deal with aspects of pupil attendance and produce a report for the Senior Leadership Team so that they can monitor the attendance daily. I ensure that the dinners ordered with the kitchen and monies received are correct.

As Lead Administration Assistant for School Campus, I am responsible for ensuring all pupil information is up-to-date on our database. Towards the end of every academic year the Administration Team will have started to prepare for the new academic year, and I will already be preparing all the new admissions for entry onto our computer system and making sure that the paperwork for our existing pupils is moved to their new classes smoothly. This will enable the classes to have all pupil information to hand when the new term starts in September.

I oversee the administration of the School Campus Parents’ Evenings, making sure that our ParentMail and manual booking system runs smoothly.

I thoroughly enjoy working on Reception and thrive on the challenges which arise daily, especially as no two days are ever the same! I don’t think I could ever go back to working at a mainstream school; I’d miss our pupils too much and miss watching them achieve every little hard-fought for step.

In my other life, I have two children/adults of 19 and 22, a husband and cat. I am also a Beaver and Scout leader at a local group and spend a lot of the school holidays camping – even in February! I am the Child Welfare Officer and scorer at Writtle Cricket Club, so every Saturday during the summer is spent driving around Essex with my scorebook and coloured pens hoping for good weather and a decent match.

Steph Matthews
Lead Administration Assistant, School Campus

Tracey Plane – Head of Learning, FE Department

posted 22 May 2017, 04:16 by James Dorey

When I started my teacher training at the University of Bath, I always remember being asked the question ‘where do you want to be in 3 years’ time’? Most people would answer with ‘a head of department’, ‘head of year’, etc., but I answered with ‘being a PE teacher in a special needs school.’ My college tutor said that this wasn’t a job and people just don’t become PE teachers in special schools.

In my third year of teaching I became a PE teacher at Columbus School and College in 2009. I am sure you will agree I would love to meet my tutor now and tell her the job is possible!

I have always enjoyed sports and taking part in many clubs in my personal time. However, Judo was always the sport that was my favourite. I have done it since I was four years old and have travelled to many places representing my country. My proudest moment had to be in 2015 when I took part in the World Championships and took a Bronze and in the Europeans taking Silver. The school supported me in my dream and even made me a Judo themed Christopher Carrot!

I started my teaching career in a mainstream school and taught PE and Science until I saw a position at Columbus. I applied for the job and was lucky enough to be offered the role. Since working at Columbus I have had many wonderful experiences working with the students and watching them grow into strong minded and independent young people. I have supported 15 educational visits in my time to a number of destinations - Sailing, Wales, Mersea, Bradwell, Southampton, Tenerife, and Portugal. I think these are an excellent way for students to gain confidence, build independence and prepare for the next stages of their life and I always enjoy supporting the students on these visits.

I was a member of the Physical Development team from 2009 - 2015 and in this time I was also the Head of Learning for two years. In 2012 we were lucky enough to take a group of students to the London 2012 Games and watched football, athletics and basketball. It really was lovely to give the students this opportunity. In 2014 the PD Department was nominated for the Active Essex School of the Year award and we were extremely proud to have won this and be the first ever Special School to win too! Everyone involved found the awards ceremony very rewarding.

In my spare time and during school holidays I was an active member of the Discovery Club and ran the scheme as a play worker until 2014.

Then in 2015 I moved across to the FE Department where I am now a Head of Learning. I really enjoy this role and have already learnt so many more things since taking on this role. I have lots of new ideas that I look forward to building into the College curriculum for the students and have a real passion for ensuring the students have the best future possible for them, leading a life as independently as they can.

Over my time at Columbus I have taken part in a number of events to raise money for the school; the Nike London Half Marathon in 2010, the Southend Half Marathon in 2015 and a 10km Nuclear Muddy Races event in 2016. I enjoy a challenge and trying new things - in July I am taking part in a 5km inflatable race along with 12 other staff from Columbus and in May I have entered a 12km Nuclear Muddy Race again.

I would like to thank the students and staff at Columbus for giving me the opportunities I have had and providing me with the skills, knowledge and expertise to fulfil my initial dream back in college to be a PE teacher for special needs students and to progress into my current role.

Tracey Plane

Head of Learning FE

Tae Flight - CLASS 5

posted 9 May 2017, 01:36 by James Dorey   [ updated 9 May 2017, 01:39 ]


My name is Tae Flight, I am 8 years old and in Key Stage 2, Class 5.

I am a happy, lively boy who is very sociable with children and adults alike.

I like to listen to music, especially Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk and One Direction, What Makes You Beautiful. I enjoy singing and dancing in front of my friends after I finish my work. During snack times and lunch times I play on the trampoline, jumping up and down really high. I often play in the sand pit, creating sand castles to knock over with a toy car.

My favourite subject is Art. I like to be creative with my designs, choosing bright colours and extra messy resources. I work hard with my friends, helping them to make good choices.


I like to share my weekend news with my friends on a Monday morning.

I used junk modelling to create a sculpture of the BT Tower in London. I felt very proud of this.

For Chinese New Year I dressed up in traditional Chinese clothes and explored Chinese food.

Victoria Beattie Class Teacher helped me to write all about me today!

Gabriel Trotter - Class 6

posted 9 May 2017, 01:30 by James Dorey   [ updated 9 May 2017, 01:40 ]


My name is Gabriel Trotter. I am 10 years old and in Key Stage 2, Class 6.

I am a happy boy who is very sociable with my peers in Class 6.

I love to build, whether it is with Mega Bloks, Duplo, Lego or Train Tracks and I am very good at it as I have a great imagination. I also enjoy playing with toys such as the train set and cars.

I have a love for sport and take part in many lunchtime and after school clubs, including football, rugby and gym trail.

My favourite subjects are PD and Swimming. I like to work with my friends to play games.


I enjoyed making milkshakes in Food Technology, but tasting it was even more fun. Chocolate was my favourite!

I love playtime as I can use the equipment and play with my friends!

Sarah Barker Class Teacher helped me to write all about me today!


posted 24 Apr 2017, 02:53 by James Dorey

I first became a governor in around 1998 when my stepson attended our predecessor school, The Hayward. At the time Essex Country Council were proposing to cut over 1000 special school places, because they considered that all children with moderate learning difficulties would be better off educated in mainstream schools with additional support. We had seen, and rejected, the offering for MLD in various mainstream comprehensives and therefore I attended some “consultation” meetings with Essex County Council’s education professionals to make the case for continuation of this provision. The then Headteacher was also at these meetings and asked me to volunteer as a parent governor.

After my son left, I was asked to continue as an Authority Governor. This meant that I was involved through a massive and significant period of changes, including:

  • The development of an autism speciality within the Hayward including accreditation by the National Autistic Society; 
  • Starting to work more closely with the Woodlands School; 
  • As that joint working grew, the development of the Essex New Model Special School concept, which led to the two schools being “federated” with a single joint governing body and the senior leadership teams merging and assuming responsibility for both schools – now known as Chelmsford New Model Special School; 
  • Amalgamation of the two schools into one, which was named Columbus; 
  • Bidding for, and receiving, funding under the government’s “Building Schools for the Future” project, allowing us to move into our two state of the art campuses; 
  • Deciding to become an Academy, and joining the country’s largest Multi-Academy Trust – the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET). 

After a period as vice-chair, when the previous chair had to reduce his involvement due to health and family reasons, I was elected by the governors as Chair, around five years ago. As chair I communicate with the Principal several times each week, discussing issues that have arisen within Columbus – be they related to staffing matters, pupil issues, problems with the building or internal IT networks, or anything else that crops up. I am also one of the first to learn of most of the good news – whether it is achievements by our young people or successes by the fundraising team in persuading people and companies to part with their money.

I spent three years as a trustee of AET, representing the interests of all Special Schools within the group.

Professionally, I am an Internal Auditor – this is a role within a company that reviews all company activities and reports to senior management on the effectiveness of process and management of risks. I have previously worked for two multinational car manufacturers and a mobile telephone company; my current employer is a vehicle leasing company – the largest in the world with over 600,000 customers, all of whom are disabled.

I have been married 20 years, and have three adult stepsons, who between them have given us five grandchildren, one of whom lives with us and keeps me young and very busy.

My main interest outside of work, when family commitments permit, relates to model aircraft flying. I am the Treasurer of the National governing body (we are to model flying what the FA is to football), and I am heavily involved in the organisation of the annual National Championships which is believed to be the largest such event outside of the USA.

I am proud to be part of the Columbus team, and look back with pleasure at what we have achieved.

Keith Lomax
Chair of Governors

Victoria Beattie – Class Teacher

posted 22 Mar 2017, 02:39 by James Dorey

When I was a little girl I always dreamt of being a teacher, playing schools with my dolls and getting into trouble for making our family dog sit for hours in the ‘classroom’. Little did I know that one day I would fulfil my dream and real children would be (hopefully) listening to me.

It was surprising that my dream came true as when I was a little girl I was only able to hear 5 -10% through my left ear; classing me as deaf, using gestures, lip reading and shouting to understand people. So, as you can imagine, Chinese whispers at school wasn’t ideal and neither was sport as I had no balance at all. When I was seven I was able to have corrective surgery which allowed me to hear fully for the first time. With this my speech improved but sadly my balance did not so still, to this day, I fall over air!

Here I am as a teacher. I worked in a mainstream school with SEN facilities for a few years before entering the world of Special Needs teaching, which, by the way, is a totally different ball game entirely that no one fully can explain, it’s just truly amazing.

I have been at Columbus for two years at Easter and the time has flown by. I have learned, progressed and overcome many things in my time so far and hope that this continues into the future. I teach with passion, love and pure enjoyment for the children and their families, supporting them in any way possible.

Thank you Columbus for giving me the opportunities and providing me with the skills, knowledge and expertise you have so far.


posted 7 Mar 2017, 00:04 by James Dorey   [ updated 7 Mar 2017, 00:05 ]

Back in the 70’s when I was a young girl (WOW a long time ago now!!!!!!) my mum worked as a midday assistant for what was Woodlands, now Columbus. I can even remember the name of the kitchen cook. I also remember taking some of the pupils out for days to the beach; there were no minibuses and the staff transported all the pupils in their own cars. My dad has a red transit van that we used to take about six pupils with us.

I can remember being on Walton beach with pupils and staff, it was one big happy family day out.

Now here I am!!!!!! Working with the same passion and empathy for the pupils and families of Columbus that my mum felt all those years ago.

I have been at what was Woodlands (now known as Columbus) for 13 years and I still feel as passionate about my job now as I did on the first day I started.

I worked firstly as a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) gaining knowledge of all the pupils’ daily needs and education.

In 2011, I took on the role of Family support Advocate full time and now cover all key stages on both School and College Campus.

I am so proud of all the pupils across both campuses and to see them achieve their goals is truly amazing. Knowing how profoundly we collectively (as a BIG FAMILY, just like the days at Walton beach back in the 70’s) improve the lives of our pupils, students and their families to reach their aspirations and full potential is an amazing feeling.

The Columbus Advocacy team works on behalf of young people with disabilities and their families to get the needed support and services required to promote a good quality of life and to promote their wellbeing and achieve positive outcomes. Parental influences have a powerful effect upon children’s and young people’s attitudes, achievements and life outcomes.

My role of the Family Support Advocate is to support and empower families by working in partnership with families, parents, carers and outside agencies, to get the most of out the educational/social opportunities and specialist services and other agencies that are available to them.

My daily tasks often include:
  • To establish positive relationships with all pupils and families 
  • To develop and enhance parental and carer engagement with the school and other agencies 
  • To work with parents and carers to develop parenting skills and promote children’s wellbeing and emotional and social development 
  • Signpost families to the support and advice needed 
  • Signpost to the Children with Disabilities Team (CWD) team. 
  • Signpost and refer to the Short Breaks provisions 
  • Liaise with health care professionals 
  • Liaise with Benefit advisors. 
  • Liaise with Housing Associations 
  • Signpost to various charities 
  • To be a point of contact for both telephone and face-to-face enquiries from parents/carers and outside agencies 
  • Attend TAC (Team around the Child) meetings, CP (Child protection) meetings, CG (Core group) meetings, CIN (Child in Need) meetings, professionals’ meetings, medical appointments and Annual Reviews/ EHCP meetings 
  • To work collaboratively with professionals from a range of agencies supporting the child/young person and the family 
  • Opportunities to meet other families via our Parents Social events 
  • Attend the Columbus Parent Consultation Committee meetings 
  • To provide advice regarding referrals to other agencies 
  • To produce reports for reviews and meetings as required, gathering information from teaching staff as necessary 
  • To liaise with other professionals and gain any relevant information on new pupils/students 
  • To work with individuals or small groups of pupils for nurture work 
  • To support pupils’ pastoral needs including help with emotional, social, welfare, care and health matters 
  • To liaise with parents and staff regarding pupils’ pastoral concerns 
  • To meet with parents to gather up-to-date information on the parents’ views in preparation for an EHCP meeting 
  • To attend relevant training and take responsibility for my own development
Personally, I like to spend time with my family, I love going to the theatre and spending the day in London. I’m not too good at keeping fit if I’m honest - a yoga class once a week is enough for me! Oh yes, and not forgetting those family days at the beach in the summer.

Tracy Gilson

Family Support Advocate


posted 23 Feb 2017, 07:00 by James Dorey

Hello, I started working at Columbus School in September 2013 as part of the Administration Team. You can find me in the Admin Office on School Campus - in the corridor where the Staff Room is or on the Reception Desk at lunchtimes and some afternoons. My role is to prepare the paperwork for the Annual Review/EHCP process for every pupil on the School Campus. I also assist Tracy Gilson with the writing up of the EHCP Transfer Templates for the pupils at School and College. It’s a very busy job and keeps me on my toes! I am always happy to help so if you have a query please come and ask me and I will try to help you.

My background is in administration, I worked for Essex County Council from when I left school up until I had my family. I have 3 teenage boys! When the boys were little I started working for the Pre-School that they attended. I loved it and was there for 9 years. I was the SENCO and worked one to one with many children with additional needs. I worked with 2 pupils who are now attending Columbus and it’s lovely to see how happy they are every day.

Being involved with families and being involved with children led me to wanting to work at Columbus and go back to my administration background. I feel I have the best of both worlds being at Columbus. I thoroughly enjoy working at the school and have met and continue to meet such lovely, kind and dedicated people.

I like to keep fit. I have a dog called Jes who I walk early every morning before school and I also enjoy cycling. I try to cycle to work as much as I can, however you won’t find me cycling in the wind or rain.

Claire Eades

Administration Assistant

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