Principal's Blog

Principal's Blog To Parents - March 2019

Dear Parents and Carers,

This Spring Term we are beginning our first parent training workshops, starting with Makaton signing (which I know has proved popular) as well as a Managing Challenging Behaviour Course; in line with the Essex Steps training received by all Columbus staff. We are also busy working on a number of other offers including SCERTS (social communication, emotional regulation and transactional support), Implementing Sensory Diets and Developing Play Skills to name a few. I would like to know what other training you might be interested in, so you will be receiving a short questionnaire to assist in building the parent workshop programme. Eventually we will offer key training packages each term, every year specifically tailored for parents/carers. I am very keen to listen to what you would find really useful so we can develop the right resource packages. Please look out for the questionnaire within the next week or so which I would very much appreciate your time in completing and returning.

Last week I attended the termly AET National Conference for Headteachers and Principals, where the focus of the conference was based on ‘Remarkable Lives’. The new Vision, Mission and Values statement reflects our commitment to stimulate Remarkable Lives in each and every one of the children.

As an AET academy, at Columbus School and College our mission is pure and simple: to enable our pupils to lead remarkable lives. This is the golden thread that binds us all together – the reason that despite our very different paths to Columbus School and College, we are all part of one family.


At Columbus School and College we want each and every child inspired to choose a Remarkable Life.


To gather and motivate inspirational people committed to delivering an excellent education that launches children into remarkable lives.



As an AET academy, we choose to be unusually brave. We're not afraid to challenge wrongs, to make the right call, even when it's both unusual and difficult to do so.


We are on the search for discovering what's possible. At Columbus School and College we look to create 'eureka moments' for our pupils, helping them discover a world of possibilities and opportunities.


We always strive to push the limits. We don't settle for less than excellent and we won't allow our pupils to either. We resolve to overcome any self-imposed limits.


At Columbus School and College we commit to being big-hearted. We choose to treat each other with kindness, warmth and care, believing that everybody matters and believing in one another.

At Columbus we believe these core values interlink with our community code: Show Respect; Take Responsibility; Consider Others; Believe in Yourself. Here is the link to the video #RemarkableLives poem that launched Remarkable Lives @ #OneAET.

Columbus #RemarkableLives Song

We are very excited to inform you that we have been creating our own version of Remarkable Lives and with the help of the Music Therapists have written a school song ‘Find Your Remarkable’ (based on the new AET core values) and the first draft recording has been made. Teachers will start playing this song to the pupils and supporting them to sing, sign, play instruments and clap along. We will put together a video of the children singing our school song to share on our website so the world will know about the Remarkable Lives of your children. We will also be entering the song into the AET 10 Years competition as well! Watch this space to see how how it progresses.


Recently I was approached by Chelmsford Teaching School Alliance to discuss opportunities for working together to improve practice across the schools network and forge relationships. I am pleased to inform you that Columbus is now formally joined with the CTSA and I have been invited on to the steering group. As a group of schools serving the same local community we are able to support each other to provide greater opportunities for the children. I will keep you updated on progress.


It has been brought to my attention that a number of parents are experiencing great difficulties with transport arrangements to and from school. As you are aware the Academy does not manage transport. However we do have a working arrangement with the taxi company and we are committed to supporting to rapidly resolve ‘live’ issues as and when they arise. Recently, Louise and I met with 24x7 Ltd to share concerns on your behalf. We were given the following assurances and their commitment to improving communication and resolving issues:

Ø 24x7 have employed additional office staff from 7am to improve their service

Ø 24x7 are working on improving their systems and processes as they recognise this is not as efficient as it could be.

Ø Louise Doe and Tracey Plane are the direct contacts for transport issues. However any safeguarding issues will be brought to my immediate attention.

Due to an increase in parents transporting their children to school there have been a number of occasions when a few parents have found this challenging due to the number of vehicles on site at School. In order to relieve some of this pressure I have instructed the buses that need to be at the front of the queue to park on the right hand side to allow for a parent car ‘drop off bay’ immediately outside the school reception. There is enough room for three vehicles at a time. In order for this to work for everyone, parents should use the bays to ‘drop off’, alert the staff member in charge who will arrange for a member of staff to escort your child safely to their classroom. Please do not park up in this area to enter the school building during this very busy time. This enables more parents to have the opportunity to bring their children on site in the vehicles. Please also remember when driving on site to abide by the one way system at all times, do not stop on the ‘hatched walkway’, drive at 5mph with caution and follow instructions of staff on duty. We thank you for your support and hope this goes some way to being a positive start and end to your and your child’s day.

Friends of Columbus School and College

Every parent/carer is a member of the Friends of Columbus which is steered by a wonderful group of parents who spend a vast amount of their precious spare time planning, preparing and running various events throughout the academic year. Columbus is incredibly lucky to have such a proactive committee organising events to raise money for additional resources to support children with enhanced experiences. Recently, we received six trampettes to use across the School and College, which are already in good use as well as almost everything on our Amazon Wish List. This is all thanks to the tremendous support of friends, families, colleagues and our local community. Thank you.

As a school we have already created a list of a number of items that we are unable to purchase through our current budget. However, if you feel there is something missing at the Academy which would enhance the provision please do let the Friends of Columbus know so that they are able to bring your suggestions to the meetings. Contact details can be found on the website Friends of Columbus School and College.


At Columbus School and College we ensure that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and that all staff, visitors, parents and carers understand their roles and responsibilities in keeping children safe. We have key information on our website related to safeguarding and would invite parents and families to familiarise themselves with this. Every school is required to have Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) including a safeguarding Governor; Karen Clark is DSL across the Academy, Tracey Plane, Louise Doe and Tracy Gilson are our DSLs and Jackie Braithwaite is our Safeguarding Governor. Throughout our curriculum, we provide activities and opportunities that equip our children to stay safe and develop essential life skills through our focus on core values, developing their personal, social and health education. The following website offers useful support for families to keep their children safe

New Staff

We have held interviews recently and I am pleased to welcome the following new staff who joined us after half term:

Cherise Stuart, Timnat Emmanuel, Alexandra Geukens and Nicola Hazlem to the amazing team of Learning Support Assistants.

We are delighted to inform you that:

Angela Osunbor joins us on 18th March as an FE Tutor at College; Angela has a background in SLD provision and is an ABA trained tutor.

Kathryn Monk joins us on 23rd April as Class Teacher at School. Kathryn, who many of you may know as a parent of a Columbus pupil, is also an experienced teacher and SENCO.

Brigitte Duffy has joined the Early Years Department and is currently covering Jenna Clements’ maternity leave.

We have recently interviewed again for Apprentices, LSAs and Class Teachers. As you are aware it is extremely important to recruit the right people to the right posts in our school and we will not compromise on this despite the challenges of working with vacancies. We are confident that we will be able to make successful appointments to these posts.

Staff Leavers

The following staff have left or will be leaving Columbus this term. We thank them for all they have done during their time with us and wish them every success for the future:

Ola Sangobowale – FE Tutor

Orla Thornton – Class Teacher Upper School (Orla has taken the decision not to return from her maternity leave)

Wendy Webb – LSA

Collette Leeder – LSA

Visit of Teachers from Romania

We were delighted to host a visit from Andra Ioja and eight teachers from Romania on Friday 1st February. Some parents may remember Andra who was a teacher at Columbus a few years ago. The teachers spent some time at school learning about pedagogy and practice at Columbus. They went away highly impressed with many ideas to develop in their practice back in Romania.

Malcolm Reeve

We welcomed Malcolm to Columbus for the last time on Friday 1st February for a special assembly on College Campus so that staff, pupils and parents could say goodbye. We thank him for all he has done for Columbus and wish him well for the future.

Chair of Governors

I am pleased to announce that our new Chair of Governors is Mr. Barney Geen. Barney joins AET as the Chair of Governors for the five special schools across AET. Barney has an extensive background in the field of special education and is also a current Ofsted Inspector. He has already visited Columbus once and will be visiting again on 28thMarch, when he will be issuing a level of challenge to support us as we continue the journey of improvement.

Baby News

We were delighted to hear that James Blake (FE Tutor) has a baby son, Harrison Henry. Harrison was born on 31st December weighing 8lbs 9oz. Congratulations!

World Book Day – 7th March

Once again the costumes were on and the characters began to come to life as we all took part in World Book Day this year. Across School and College, various books sprung to life with a continuous round of storytelling and drama. Thank you everyone for your contribution.

Red Nose Day – 15th March

Another annual event that we all delight in taking part in was the recent Red Nose Day. Pupils and staff joined in the fun! School held a cake sale in the Jungle area, as well as individual classes organising activities. College held another Danceathon for students, parents and staff in the afternoon which was great fun for all! Once again a huge thank you to everyone who contributed.

Parents’ Evenings

Parents’ Evenings this term were held on School Campus – 7th March; College Campus – 14th March.

Thank you to everyone who attended this event as it is an opportunity to see your child’s work and discuss the progress your child has been making.

Chelmsford Foodbank

Thank you to everyone who has sent in donations for Chelmsford Foodbank. We continue to receive donations regularly; your support is very much appreciated. As highlighted on Red Nose Day, the sad truth is that many of our own community are struggling to meet their basic family needs and rely on the kindness and generosity of others to help them through tough times. Thank you.


In the Summer Term I am commiting to sending weekly newletters to keep you updated on events in the school and share some of the children’s remarkable acheivements. So please look out for them as I will be asking for feedback on whether the content is being well received and what else you would like to see in them. I will continue to write a termly Blog for you but this will be in the form of information on a relevant topical subject.

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 over £3,000 to date!

Term Dates

A reminder that that the last day of term is Friday 5th April. Staff return on Tuesday 23rd April. This is a staff training day. Pupils return on Wednesday 24th April.

Karen Clark