Cedar Centre

“If they can't learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn”
O. Ivar Lovaas

The Cedar Centre opened in September 2012 to support students with autism access mainstream school life. It was a joint project between Heathfield Community School and the Autism Service.

The centre was a purpose-built facility designed to support 8 students from across Somerset county. Within a year the centre had reached capacity and there was still a need to support more students. The centre was run over capacity until in September 2017 Heathfield Community School took on full responsibility for the Cedar Centre. During the school year 2017 to 2018 the centre ran a split site and supported 15 students. Work also started on refurbishing the vacant old primary school adjacent to Heathfield. The aim was to increase support to a maximum of 20 students. Currently the Centre is supporting 29 autistic students.

During June and July, 2018 the Cedar Centre moved into new premises. The main building of the old West Monkton Primary school had been fully refurbished. The Cedar Centre now boasts 6 classrooms, a large social room, meeting room and 4 strategy rooms – sensory room, quiet room, calm room with punch bag and a drum room with electronic drum kit. Outside facilities have also been developed with the help of parents and now include sensory garden, growing garden with raised beds and outdoor play area.

The aim of the Cedar Centre is to support students within the Centre; to promote inclusion and enable students to become independent learners; encourage and support students in academic and social processes of school life. Students joining the Cedar Centre will receive full support from the Centre but will also be part of a tutor group and have a mainstream timetable. Students are part of the Heathfield School community.

A reverse inclusion strategy will be followed. The student will receive a full individualised timetable within the Centre which will address any social, sensory and communications difficulties; whilst providing the basic academic skills and understanding to allow for future inclusion. When appropriate the student will be included in mainstream lessons and activities.

“If I could snap my fingers and be non-autistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am.”
Temple Grandin

The Cedar Centre runs a time table for students not accessing mainstream lessons. We start the day with morning briefing.

  • Period 1 is a Personal Development lesson in which students work with the Cedar Centre tutors. A variety of topics can be covered including social, sensory and communication, Learn to Move programme to improve fine and gross motor skills, mentoring and preparing the student for a day in school.
  • Period 2 and 3 are split into 30 minute lessons and cover Maths, English, Science and Humanities.
  • Period 4 lessons are art, PE, team work, gardening and life skills lessons. Life skills lessons have covered topics such as travelling by bus, opening a bank account and shopping. In class lessons have covered Health and Hygiene, healthy eating, preparing food and ironing.

The Cedar Centre is part of the Heathfield School Community. Cedar Centre students have the same opportunities as all students at Heathfield. Activities are tailored to allow students to take part as much as they wish. Cedar Centre students are encouraged to challenge themselves but never forced out of what they feel they can cope with. Students always have an exit strategy to withdraw to the Centre if necessary on any activity. Cedar Centre students have taken part in the Camino Walk, Silver Jubilee Challenge and school sports day. Students have represented the school at swimming, athletics and Bocha. During activities week students have been rock climbing, caving, attended soccer skills, circus skills, catering days and art days, they have gone on day trips to Butlins, Crealy and Paignton Zoo.

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Opportunities

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural opportunities are addressed by staff leading by example and addressing situations when they arise. Every opportunity is taken by staff to encourage students in good social interaction and explain the expected social behaviours. Students gather in the Cedar Centre before registration, break times, lunchtimes and after lessons.

Lunch time clubs, which are attended by mainstream students, include girls club, art club, Bocha club, Subbuteo club, Pokémon club, crafts club, film club and football club. Computers are not allowed to be used at lunch time. Students are expected to socialise at a club or socially interact with staff and other students at lunchtime.

Students either attend tutor time or have time with their key worker addressing any needs.

Head of Cedar Centre
Advisory Teacher responsible for teaching and learning (part time)
Ash Tutor Group Beech Tutor Group Maple Tutor Group Oak Tutor Group
Tutor leader
Tutor leader
Tutor leader
Tutor leader
5 students 5 students 5 students 5 students

Above was the plan to support 20 students. Currently, we are supporting 29 students.

In order to support the maximum number of students, the Cedar Centre has implemented 3 new initiatives, which started in September 2020.

  • Alternative Education Centre (AEC) - to support students who need a bespoke timetable and may not suit the studying of GCSE’s. ASDAN qualifications are being studied and a personalised learning plan followed. Currently, 4 students are studying in the AEC supported by 2 staff.
  • Year 10 hub - to support mainstream appropriate students who cannot access mainstream lessons. The need for the year 10 hub came from the fact that we received 7 students, who had previously accessed mainstream provision, but needed the support of the Cedar Centre. Heathfield Community School took the decision to support 7 year-10 autistic students in a hub. They have Maths and English lessons delivered by subject specialist mainstream teachers in the hub. The remainder of their timetables are designed to meet their needs. Some students access mainstream lessons for Princes Trust, Dance, Drama and DT. Some students don’t access mainstream and have all their lessons in the Cedar Centre. The hub will support the 7 students up to the date they leave and will then close.
  • Autism Champions will support all autistic students at Heathfield. Initially, the Autism Champions will support Cedar Centre students and year 7 students in mainstream. Over the next 5 years the Autism Champions will support all years in mainstream.


Head of Cedar Centre Stuart Owens
Advisory Teacher Tracy Owens
Deputy Head of Centre/Tutor Lisa Moule
Tutor / Humanities coordinator Abi Birley
Tutor / Science coordinator Molly Grafton
Tutor / PE coordinator Jess Brown
English coordinator Lisa Passmore
Maths coordinator Cheryl Finlayson
AEC Coordinator Rosie Tipping
Autism Champion Becky Smith
Autism Champion Dionne Clark
Specialist TA Kelly Cripwell
Specialist TA Beth Morgan
Specialist TA Keita Shirley
Specialist TA Dylan McNairn


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