The Wells Free School opened in September 2013. It was set up by a small group of proposers in Tunbridge Wells, made up of local parents, teachers and interested residents, in response to concerns over the growing population of school aged children in the area compared to the capacity of local schools.
The proposer group submitted an application to the Secretary of State for Education in February 2012 to open a new school. After attending an interview in May 2012 they received an approval to open a school in July 2012. The hard work then began, finding premises, staff and pupils ready for opening in September 2013.
Consultation events were held at the United Reform Church, these confirmed that there was a desire for a school with one form entry and small classes, and for the school to open with three year groups in its first year, adding a Reception class each year until full.
When Berkeley Homes purchased the Kent and Sussex Hospital site in the centre of town, on Mount Ephraim, it seemed a good opportunity to start discussions about the possibility of creating a new school as part of the site development. These discussions were very positive, and in December 2012, approval was given for a school on the site.
A Head Teacher designate was appointed in February 2013. Over the next few months teaching staff and office staff were recruited, with a decision taken that only qualified teachers would be appointed.The appointed staff then worked with the members of the proposer group during the pre-opening phase.
Along with finding premises, including temporary buildings whilst the new school was to be built, the team worked on curriculum documents, uniform design, the first website and branding for the school, and the plethora of policies, procedures and decisions that needed to be in place for the school to open. A series of consultation and taster events were held to enable parents to make decisions about school places for September 2013. The Neuro Rehabilitation ward on the hospital site was earmarked for temporary accommodation and refurbishment began, along with a great deal of research into creating the best possible learning environments, furnishings and ICT infrastructure for the incoming pupils.
On September 2nd 2013, following a summer of intense work, painting and decorating, setting up classrooms, building furniture, undertaking staff training and running events for the pupils who had accepted places, the school opened to 69 pupils in years R, 1 and 2. At this point members of the proposer group became governors of the school and set about recruiting parent governors.
And the rest of the school’s history? We’re making it now!