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Columbus School and College, Chelmsford

2 October 2014

Columbus School and College

Columbus School and College caters for children with a wide range of disabilities. The school teaches children of nursery age to Year 10, while the college teaches students from Year 7 to Year 11. The college also has a Further Education department which has students from Year 12 to Year 14.

The school is mainly single storey, with two floors only where appropriate. The west wing includes a reception and chief executive’s office, a restaurant and kitchen, KS2 and KS3 class bases, an art/creative zone, and a food technology room. An ‘immersive learning environment’ has also been provided which allows students to immerse themselves in situations, such as shopping or being at a train station, before experiencing them first hand.

The remodelled east wing provides administration areas, a main hall, an 'eco zone', a soft room, meeting rooms and a nursery.

Externally, the landscape has been designed to enable learning to take place through nature trails, natural play equipment, sensory gardens, sound posts, tree-top cameras, an eco-courtyard and outdoor teaching areas. A memorial garden provides pupils with a quiet area.  


The site has a redeveloped car park and cycle parking.

swimming pool

Columbus college

The two-storey college has a bolder presence than the school through the ‘Columbus Square’ and an atrium. The co-location of the college with St John Payne School enables joint use of the new facilities by students from the schools.


The ‘Columbus Square’ has an open frontage with bold signage and integrated artwork. The college also has a café that links to the square for events.

Externally, the design includes a row of large trees directing pupils to the entrance. Seats are provided and low walls allow seating around the square.

The college also has a sports hall and a multi-use games area. Between these is an avenue of green spaces for the college and St John Payne School.


A large car park for the college and school, with some spaces for St John Payne, has been constructed with access off Partridge Avenue. 

Vital statistics
  • Site area: 12,000 m2 (school)
  • Floor area: 1,500m2 (school); 4,376m2 (college)
  • Number of students: 240
  • Age of students: 3 -19
  • Start date: June 2010
  • Completion date: May 2012


Project details
  • Building design: Haverstocks
  • Structural design: Skanska Technology
  • Services design: Skanska Rashleigh Weatherfoil/HBS
  • Landscape design: Wynne-Williams
  • ICT design: Skanska RM
  • Construction: Skanska Construction
Staff comments
  • “I like that it is spacious and the high ceilings make it feel bigger.”
  • “Lovely, light and spacious.”
  • “I can notice a definite morale boost since moving into the new building. Makes me feel proud to work there – want to show it off!”
  • “I like the balconies and think they bring an added dimension, because some students find things like assemblies too much. They can stand at the top and still see what is going on.”