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About Us

Cherry Tree Education

'A school can become a surrogate ‘secure base’ which can contain the inevitable anxiety engendered by the challenges of learning. School can provide compensatory relationships and experiences to pupils whose capacities to learn have been impaired by adverse emotional and social experiences.'

Heather Geddes, Attachment in the Classroom, 2012.

Cherry Tree has been designed to meet the needs of pupils who present with mental health issues which has stopped them from accessing long term education or who have struggled to fit into the education models available to them. Cherry Tree specialises in pupils who need time to settle, need space to thrive and need patience and support to achieve. When pupils enter the school, there is an initial focus is on their mental health, and how it may impact on their day and their learning. Where a pupil is struggling and where necessary, individual timetables will be adapted so that they are able to achieve at an appropriate pace on the day. Many of our secondary age pupils have missed valuable opportunities to explore what they like, what they are good at, what they need to develop and most importantly, who they are. We ensure that the curriculum contains opportunities for our pupils to discover themselves and how they fit into the world around them.

A highly experienced staff team will work together with all relevant agencies to ensure that an individualised education package is shaped around each pupil. This will ensure that in time, they can reach their potential academically, while building their emotional stability and resilience.

'Children have different experiences even at the same school and that for well-being ‘child school’ fit is as important as attending a ‘good’ school.'

Gutman and Feinstein 2008, cited in Office for National Statistics Insights into children's mental health and well – being, 2015.

Mental health and ongoing difficulties can present in many ways, both verbally, non-verbally and through various behaviours and so each individual situation will be discussed thoroughly to ensure that Cherry Tree can give the best possible fit for a pupil. Understanding their holistic needs means that the most effective strategies can be put in place to promote their growth and aid their progression. All strategies and individual plans will flow and adapt to the ongoing needs of the pupils.

Reflective practice and staff development is an integral part of Cherry Tree life and underpins much of what we do. Regular meetings with external experienced and qualified professionals ensure that we remain up to date in our knowledge and add to our expertise to provide the best possible teaching and learning environment for our pupils.

'There is evidence that suggests that a whole school approach is important as it ensures that mental health and well-being is embedded within the culture and processes of the school, and also ensures that they work with partners in health, the voluntary sector etc. to provide mental health support for those most in need'.

House of Commons Education Committee, Mental Health and well-being of looked-after children, 2016.

Our Ethos and Intentions


Our school ethos is to value all pupil’s skills and abilities beyond the cognitive. Pupils voices are valued and are at the heart of, and a part of every decision we make. Cherry Tree will strive to be innovative to meet the diverse, emotional and aesthetic needs of all pupils. We will endeavour to build mutually respectful relationships so that pupils feel appreciated and noticed. We believe in encouraging pupils to take learning risks and explore the world around them which in turn enables them to feel more positive about their learning and their future. The character, personality, individuality, awareness and resilience of each pupil is encouraged and developed, thereby promoting a healthy and enjoyable approach to learning and to life.

We will do this through our Intentions

At Cherry Tree we will ensure, through our considered intentions, that:

  • Our pupils are the focus of everything we do
  • Our pupils are given the time and space they need to enjoy their learning
  • Our pupils are inspired and stretched to achieve the success they are capable of
  • Our pupils are encouraged to adopt the responsibilities that go with their rights
  • Our pupils are encouraged to adopt healthier and safer lifestyle options
  • Our pupils are encouraged to discover and embrace creativity
  • Our staff establish rich, diverse and stimulating learning environments for all
  • Our staff provide ongoing choices, challenges and encourage initiative
  • Our staff provide opportunities in a safe and happy environment
  • Our staff will ensure that opportunities are local, national and international
  • Our staff demonstrate a commitment to equality of opportunity
  • We let you know what the pupils are doing each step of the way
  • We let you know the pupil’s base line in core subjects
  • We let you know regularly what they achieve and how they are progressing
  • We expect and maintain high standards in every aspect of school life and for it to be evident in behaviour and attitudes of all pupils
  • We will promote the professional development of all staff and volunteers

What People Say About Us

The pupils are always the top priority. The school and especially the leaders support pupils and families outside of the normal working day and go over and above with supporting the whole family. Cherry Tree leaders will challenge when needed for the best outcome for the young person and are pro-active in the wrap around service for the family. We will carry on developing the school and continue to adapt to the needs of the young person.

Staff member Dec 2020

It’s amazing. I was very nervous before I started and didn’t want to mess up. It is what I thought it was going to be but thought it was too good to be true!

Pupil January 2020

I would never have thought the words “I enjoy school” would come out of my mouth until this school.

Pupil Dec 2020

The school’s strengths are holistic approaches to learning, promotion of confidence in learning and social situations, providing a calm environment that is crucial to learning, having friendly and approachable staff who are always willing to listen to any concerns myself or my child may have. All of these have made very positive effects on my child’s development. I can’t think of any area that the school could improve on with the exception of providing a sixth form!

Parent Dec 2020

The school’s greatest strengths are the ability to, not only accept that each student’s needs are different, but to be able to provide support for each of them. The school values everyone’s views and does everything and more to create a calm, caring and encouraging environment.

Staff member Dec 2020

The school is amazing in everything they do. The way the school deals with pupils is brilliant and enforces a healthy and progressive way of helping all pupils to evolve. The school has helped me develop into a good young man. I am maturing at a level I never would have at any other school. All pupils are calm and collected thanks to the school.

Pupil Dec 2020

The school is amazing

Pupil Dec 2020

The school’s strengths are patience, meeting my child’s needs, a friendly safe environment and their commitment.

Parent Jul 2020

I am more confident in my work and will now give it a go when I would not before.

Pupil January 2020

Cherry Tree is brilliant at looking and focusing on individual need of both pupils and staff. Leadership is great and supportive. At Cherry Tree, individuality is encouraged. We are all adaptable as a team.

Staff member Dec 2020

All staff are doing amazing with the changes during these times with coronavirus.

Pupil Dec 2020

The communication is what makes the school beyond excellent. These last few terms have been so well managed; they could not do a single thing to improve this school

Foster parent Jul 2020

Everybody has the opportunity to be heard. This includes staff and pupils, nobody is ever judged and everybody is given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Staff member Dec 2020

I was getting into fights and arguments before and now I don’t ever NOT want to go to school at Cherry Tree. Other schools had given up.

Pupil January 2020

I have worked with Soo Finn professionally for over 14 years, both as a colleague and education advisor, mostly recently in an independent school for 'looked-after' children with attachment issues and complex needs and consequent serious psychological and behavioural difficulties. Soo is very creative in her thinking and developing of both staff and pupils and works tirelessly to create an exciting and differentiated curriculum and activities to motivate and engage hard to reach pupils and young people. The school was deemed to be 'outstanding' as a result of the hard work and dedication of Soo, as recognised by myself and a consultant Ofsted inspector. Soo is an outstanding leader of a school, with an expertise in vulnerable, hard to reach learners of any age and has shown over the years to be able to engage these children in education and give them a positive outlook for their future.

Retired Ofsted Additional Inspector, Retired Deputy Principal of a specialist school and college, and Education Consultant and Advisor 2020

Meet the Team

Headteacher and Director

Soo Finn BA Hons, NPQH

Soo Finn - Cherry Tree Education

Soo is a qualified and experienced headteacher who has worked with many vulnerable children and young people for over 25 years, including those who have mental health issues, learning disabilities and challenging behaviours, homeless young people, young offenders and children and young people who misuse drugs and alcohol. One of the key factors that has driven Soo’s career was an early recognition that many of these children and young people had negative learning experiences at school and were often excluded. Her career first took the path into education when she set up her own training company and completed her Cert Ed. Soo then went on to gain a BA Hons in Education and Training and completed the National Professional Qualification for Headship with outstanding feedback. She has worked for, and alongside various organisations including the Voluntary and Charitable Sector, The Prince’s Trust and Kent Police. Soo was also involved in a multi-national project in France which brought together children and young people from Britain, France and Turkey. Soo set up and led an Alternative Education Provision through two ‘Good with Outstanding Features’ Ofsted inspections and led the same team to win a Gold Award for Innovation in Education. Since then Soo has worked as a Headteacher in an independent school and led a staff team to change an ‘adequate’ school into an outstanding ‘Ofsted ready’ school (pre-Ofsted inspection report March 2017). In her spare time Soo enjoys upcycling, gardening and is writing a book about her life experiences.

School Operations Manager and Director

Emma Brown QTLS

Emma Brown - Cherry Tree Education

Emma has worked with vulnerable children and young people for over 20 years in various capacities including youth work, coaching and tutoring. Emma has completed the Diploma for Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector and went on to gain her QTLS accreditation. Throughout her career she has attended various training events and conferences related to children and young people with behavioural, social and learning difficulties. Emma was part of an education team that won a Gold Award for Innovation in Education and after this went on to complete a Diploma in First Line Management while employed as a School Operations Manager in an Alternative Education Provision. Within this role Emma was a key figure in the Senior Leadership Team that led the provision through two ‘Good with Outstanding Features’ Ofsted inspections. Emma has recently played a senior role in changing a school from adequate into being an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted ready school. Emma has a vast amount of experience in ensuring EHC Plans are in place for all pupils that need them. In her personal time Emma enjoys rugby, metal detecting and walking.

Management Committee Chair

Jo Berry

Jo Berry - Cherry Tree Education

Until 2012 Jo worked for Kent County Council and in her last role, as County SEN Operations Manager, she had overarching responsibility for the SEN assessment teams. She worked at both a strategic level with Members and Directors developing options for future SEN services, working hard to translate these strategies into effective operational practice working alongside multiagency partners and special school headteachers. Jo was part of SEN7 (7 councils) who worked closely with partners such as, Council for Disabled Children, responding to the changes in SEN legislation around the implementation of Education Health Care Plans, and reporting directly to the DfE.

In 2012, Jo moved into a senior leadership role in a Kent maintained autism specific day and residential special school where she was a Designated Safeguarding Lead and also the Designated LAC Teacher. One of Jo’s key responsibilities was to ensure parents were supported effectively and her work included reviewing the quality of Education Health Care Plan, chairing annual reviews, attending multidisciplinary meetings, preparing cases for SEND tribunal and ensuring effective transition to post 19 providers. Jo currently works as a SEND Advocate supporting parents in navigating the complexities of the SEN system.

In her spare time Jo enjoys reading, exercising, looking after two boisterous grandsons and cups of coffee and slices of cake in various establishments across East Kent.

Cherry Tree Term Dates (2020/21)

  • TERM 1 for pupils 1st September 2020 – 23rd October 2020
  • (INSET DAYS for staff 27th & 28th August 2020)
  • TERM 2 – 9th November 2020 – 18th December 2020
  • TERM 3 – 4th January 2021 – 12th February 2021
  • TERM 4 – 22nd February 2021 – 1st April 2021
  • TERM 5 – 19th April 2021 – 28th May 2021
  • TERM 6 – for pupils 14th June 2021 – 28th July 2021
  • (INSET DAY for staff 29th July 2021)

N.B. first day back for pupils for Term 1 2021-2022 is 1st September 2021

(INSET DAYS for staff 26th, 27th and 31st August 2021

Bank Holidays not included in term times above:

  • Monday 3rd May 2021

Please note that these dates could change in the event of any urgent or unforeseen circumstances.

Cherry Tree Term Dates (2021/22)

  • TERM 1 for pupils 1st September 2021 – 22nd October 2021
  • (INSET DAYS for staff 26th, 27th & 31st August 2021)
  • TERM 2 – 8th November 2021 – 17th December 2021
  • TERM 3 – 4th January 2022 – 11th February 2022
  • TERM 4 – 21st February 2022 – 1st April 2022
  • TERM 5 – 19th April 2022 – 27th May 2022
  • TERM 6 – 13th June 2022 – 29th July 2022

N.B. first day back for pupils for Term 1 2022-2023 is 1st September 2022

Bank Holidays not included in term times above:

  • Monday 2nd May 2022

Please note that these dates could change in the event of any urgent or unforeseen circumstances.

Ofsted Report 2018


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