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Cedar Centre

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

History of Cedar Centre

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. Within a year the centre had reached capacity and there was still a need to support more students. The centre ran, over capacity for a number of years. In September 2017 Heathfield Community School took on full responsibility for the Cedar Centre. During the academic year 2017 /18 the centre ran a split site and supported 15 students. Work also started on refurbishing the vacant, old primary school adjacent to Heathfield for the Cedar Centre to move into. The aim was to increase support to a maximum of 20 students. Currently, the Centre is supporting 32 autistic students. During June and July, 2018, the Cedar Centre moved into its new premises. The main building of the old West Monkton Primary school had been fully refurbished. The Cedar Centre now boasts 6 classrooms, large social room, meeting room and 4 strategy rooms, including a sensory room, two quiet rooms and calm room with punch bag. The outdoor facilities have also been developed, with the help of parents, and now include sensory garden, orchard with 5 plum trees, wildlife garden, growing garden with raised beds and an outdoor play area.

Management of Cedar Centre

Prior to September 2017 the Cedar Centre was managed jointly by the Autism Service, SCC and Heathfield Community School. Since September 2017 the Cedar Centre has been managed as a department within the school. The Head of Cedar Centre is line managed by the Deputy Head. The Cedar Centre manages all its own EHCPs and annual reviews. The Cedar Centre has developed its own staff structure by employing a Deputy Head of Centre, a part-time Advisory Teacher to support the KS3 teaching and learning that takes place within the Centre and trained four academic coordinators for Maths, English, Science and Humanities. In addition, we have also developed the role of an Autism Champion. This role involves coordinating the support for students accessing mainstream, training the inclusion teaching assistants and guiding mainstream teachers on best strategies to support autism. Further development is planned and includes training more Autism Champions, extending the intervention opportunities for students in the Cedar Centre and increasing the non-academic opportunities for KS4 students. Closer collaboration with the Learning Support Department and sharing of Autism Champions is expected.

Aims of Cedar Centre

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 mainstream tutor group and have a mainstream timetable. Students are part of the Heathfield School community.


Tutor groups

Students are organised into 4 vertical tutor groups, year 7 to year 11. They are led by a team of two tutors. Tutor groups were originally organised to support 5 students but currently have 7 or 8 students. The tutors ensure weekly contact with parents, coordinate the personal development lessons and tutor group activities for their group. Tutors meet with their students 3 times a day and will be able to address any issue as they arise. A close working collaboration with parents is developed and we have opportunities for parents to visit at the end of every term.

Reverse Inclusion policy

To ensure the student develops as an independent learner, able to manage their anxiety and be able to self-regulate in a mainstream environment we follow a reverse inclusion strategy.

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.

Having the student in a calm learning environment, supported by adults who understand autism helps reduce anxiety and allows time to develop a professional relationship so that when a student is challenged out of their comfort zone, they have the trust that they will be supported in order to be successful.

The reverse inclusion strategy also allows time for staff to carry out a range of assessments, over time, without the student being overwhelmed. The aim is to help understand the individual student and develop strategies to support their learning and personal development. Assessment includes – spelling age, reading age, reading comprehension age, TALC (Test of Abstract Language Comprehension), Emotional Literacy, Talkabout, KS1 or KS2 Maths and English, sensory checklist and CAT4 assessments.

Behaviour Management

For students to achieve their full potential, long-term, they first need to be able to identify, acknowledge and regulate triggers that if left, could/would impede their learning. The Cedar Centre team develop strategies for sensory issues, anxiety and behaviour issues. To achieve this the team will initially co-regulate with the student using 5-point scales, develop exit strategies, reflection and mentoring. Any learnt behaviour strategies that they have developed to survive in previous schools will need to be addressed and new strategies put in place. This will all be carried out in a calm learning manner, including parents if needed.

In the Cedar Centre we have adjusted the behaviour policy as our aim is to support the autism in order to reduce behaviours. Students have their own strategies and are expected to use them to avoid disrupting the learning of others. Careful reflection and mentoring, including parents, if necessary, addresses any behaviour concerns. We aim to celebrate all the success of the students and every Friday have a reward session at the end of the day. Students receive a letter highlighting their achievements.

Mainstream Inclusion

Mainstream inclusion happens when the student feels they are ready. The student, parents and staff collaborate in deciding the best subjects and activities to start attending. The ultimate aim is to have an independent learner who can choose their options for KS4 before moving onto college.

When in mainstream Cedar Centre students are expected to follow mainstream expectations. A behaviour plan is developed and can include exceptions to mainstream rules, adjustments to uniform, exit strategies, use of alternative strategies and guidance to mainstream staff on supporting the students.

“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 timetable for students not accessing mainstream lessons. We start the day with morning briefing, run by the Tutor. This allows the tutor to inform their tutor group of any changes for the day, staff absences, visitors to the centre as well as addressing any concerns the students may have.

  • Period 1 is a Personal Development lesson in which students work with the Cedar Centre tutors. A variety of topics are covered, including social communication, sensory issues and social interaction. Pararenal views are sought and the AET framework used as a guide.
  • At the end of each PD lesson a 10 minute Learn To Move session is run to improve fine motor skills, gross motor skills, balance, perseverance and a range of other skills.
  • 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. Bespoke lessons can be developed and have included dog agility and Dance. 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.

Opportunities to be part of the whole school community

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 in 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 also 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.

“What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”
Temple Grandin


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.

Staff help students organise lunch time clubs, which are attended by some mainstream students, clubs have included 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.


Head of Cedar Centre Stuart Owens
Advisory Teacher (part-time) Tracy Owens
Deputy Head of Centre / Tutor Lisa Moule
Tutor / Humanities coordinator Kayley Sandercock
Tutor / English coordinator Lisa Passmore
Tutor / Maths coordinator Cheryl Finlayson
Science coordinator Kyra Moule
Autism Champion Becky Smith
Inclusion TA’s 5 x supply TA’s



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