The Story of Wye School

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. This was the location that had the strong support of the village community. 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 was disappointing and it 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.

The story continued and amid local concerns and more than a little disruption in the village, school life went on calmly with a great deal of academic and sporting success. More temporary buildings arrived while planning consent was secured to provide the resources a modern secondary school needs in the twenty first century. Building work began in the autumn of 2017, but unperturbed by what was going on around them, teachers and students worked tremendously hard throughout that academic year. Luke Magee arrived in April 2018 as the school’s second Principal and the year ended with outstanding GCSE results from those who had made up the founding year of the school.

In January 2019 the story began a new chapter as all the temporary buildings disappeared one by one and students and staff were able, at last, to move into the beautiful new building. There have been countless exclamations of “Wow!” and “Amazing!” as people see inside the assembly hall with its comfortable retractable seating, or the fabulous sports hall, or the inspirational views from the classrooms that look towards the Crown.

It is indeed a pity that we couldn’t realise our original aim of using the old College buildings, but no one would deny that few secondary school students have more beautiful facilities and surroundings in which to study – and we look forward to fulfilling a promise we made when we bid for the school, which was to share these superb facilities with our friends and neighbours in Wye. And in a low key reference to Wye College and its history, a room in school has been named the Agricola Room so that when former students and staff of the College visit the school, they will know that we remember them and we are continuing to provide high quality education in Wye.

The school is part of United Learning. United Learning comprises: UCST (Registered in England No: 2780748. Charity No. 1016538) and ULT (Registered in England No. 4439859. An Exempt Charity). Companies limited by guarantee. VAT number 834 8515 12.
Registered address: United Learning, Worldwide House, Thorpe Wood, Peterborough, PE3 6SB. Tel: 01832 864 444

United Learning