Cherry Tree

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About Cherry Tree

Name Cherry Tree
Ofsted Inspections
Ms Susan Finn
Address 29 All Saints Avenue, Margate, CT9 5QN
Phone Number 01843290131
Phase Independent (special)
Type Other independent special school
Age Range 11-17
Religious Character None
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 9 (66.7% boys 33.3% girls)
Local Authority Kent

What is it like to attend this school?

This is a small school with high ambitions. The caring culture created by leaders since the school opened is now firmly established. Staff expect much from pupils. Poor behaviour is not accepted by staff and frowned on by pupils. Pupils are not concerned about bullying here, saying staff would be ‘on it’ if there were problems. When challenged to change ‘one small thing’ to improve the school, pupils genuinely found it difficult to put their finger on anything.

Pupils are openly proud of Cherry Tree. They see it as ‘their’ school, although they prefer to describe it as the ‘Cherry Tree family’. They delight in showing visitors how much the school has changed their lives and their prospects. They talk passionately about how staff ‘challenge and care’ in equal measure. One pupil who arrived recently reflected, ‘I don’t feel judged for who I am, by pupils or staff.’ Another who left the school very recently to take up a college place wanted inspectors to know how much difference the school had made to his life. The ‘documentary’ he left was viewed at the end of the inspection. Uncannily, it correlated closely with the outcomes reflected in this report.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

All staff are leaders at this school. Although the headteacher and the operations manager are ultimately responsible, teachers and support staff are fully empowered and expected to play their part. Because of this and a strong culture of ‘doing the right thing for pupils’, the school has improved significantly since its last inspection.

The curriculum is ever evolving. Staff take great care in designing learning that meets the needs of each individual pupil. With only nine pupils, all with complex special educational needs and/or disabilities, this is sometimes more difficult than it might seem. Most pupils were out of education for extended periods of time before joining the school. Many lack confidence in their ability to be successful learners. However, pupils quickly settle on arrival and enjoy the uniqueness of what is on offer, including their artistic endeavours in the upcycling workshop, or in helping train the school’s new therapy dog, Hugo.

Leaders constantly monitor the breadth of opportunity the curriculum provides. Staff have high expectations but are also personable in their approach. They know that there is a delicate balancing act to play, especially in the initial stages when pupils transition into the school. A new system to assess pupils’ academic and social and emotional development has been designed by the deputy headteacher. Introduced just over a year ago, this is now paying dividends in supporting staff to understand what pupils know and can do. It helps pupils to be aware of their successes. Importantly, it also helps them understand what they need to do next to achieve the qualifications they need for their next steps in education.

Pupils make rapid progress in the core subjects of mathematics and English. This is partly to do with staff expertise in these subjects. It is also closely linked to the unique learning culture evident in classrooms. Staff make learning interesting. They know that self-motivation plays a massive part in pupils’ ability to learn new things. This was evident during all classroom visits, where pupils were highly engaged and active in their learning. This included sessions of blended learning, during the inspection, in which a pupil successfully accessed the classroom from home, playing a full part in her interactions with teachers and her peers alike.

Pupils’ personal development is served well here. The school’s caring ethos underpins this, although the wider curriculum also provides a solid platform to build on. The school’s personal, social and health education programme includes appropriate relationships and sex education, as well as careers and the school’s ‘Britishness’ programme. Much of the learning is based on real life, preparing pupils well for the difficult choices they make, both in and out of school. They know about the concepts of equality and diversity in society. They understand difference. Discussions with inspectors showed pupils to have a high degree of respect for themselves and their peers. They support each other well when their unique differences have the potential to create an inequality of opportunity in simple things such as being heard in a discussion.

Parents and carers had a lot to say to inspectors about this school, and none of it negative. Staff are also very positive about their work and the rewards it brings. Communication is strong. Staff feel listened to. They appreciate that leaders are ‘present’ and supportive of their work. External professionals from local authorities or other agencies are also positive about all aspects of the school and the way it supports its pupils.

Leaders are supported by a small management committee whose members provide a degree of independent oversight of the school. Terms of reference make the extent of their work and responsibilities clear. These include supporting the school’s joint directors to meet all aspects of the independent school standards, particularly regarding the quality of education the school provides and all aspects of the welfare, health and safety of pupils and staff.


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

The culture of safeguarding pupils is strong because safeguarding is a daily constant for leaders and staff alike. Regular briefings ensure that information flows seamlessly and to the right people. This includes updates to and from parents, carers and other professionals outside of the school.

Although staff turnover is very low, processes to recruit and check staff or other adults are sound. The school’s site is secure. Key policies are up to date, known and understood by staff. Record-keeping is detailed. Staff have confidence in leaders to act if they need to in order to keep pupils safe.

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