Margaret Williams, Chair of Governors for Wye School, tells the story of how the school came into being.
In 2011, a group of parents and members of the Wye community identified a need and strong demand for high-quality school places in the Ashford area. Together with United Learning, an organisation with an outstanding record for excellence in education going back 130 years, the Wye Free School Group submitted a successful bid to the Department for Education to open a Secondary Free School in Wye.
After a great deal of hard work and many anxious moments, the school opened in September 2013 with its first 90 eleven year old students under the leadership of Jan Naylor, the first Principal. Much of the initial anxiety related to securing a permanent home for the school. The original intention had been to house the school in the Edwardian buildings of the former Wye College, along with the adjacent science laboratories. However, in order to allow the school to open in time, Imperial College, the buildings’ owners, granted a temporary lease for the Kempe Centre, the modern, award winning former Wye College library and computing centre on Olantigh Road.
Despite behind the scenes efforts and much negotiation that went on for almost two years after the school opened, it proved impossible to secure a permanent home for the school in the Edwardian buildings. This led to the temporary installation of a series of ‘Portakabin’ buildings to provide more accommodation for the growing school - by autumn 2015 there were 270 students. But behind the cloud was a silver lining. Most of the former Wye College buildings, including the Kempe Centre, had new owners and they agreed that the school could have its permanent home in the Kempe Centre and could use the former hop garden, a seven acre adjacent field as a playing field. This meant that students would no longer have to spend part of each PE lesson walking through the village to the playing fields at the top of Cherry Garden Lane or to use other village sports facilities.