Duke of Kent School was founded in 1976 by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. The School’s name honoured Prince George, the Duke of Kent, (1902-1942), who died in an air crash during the Second World War. The School was established primarily to educate the sons of former and serving RAF personnel. Many pupils were Foundationers, some of whom had lost fathers on active service. The School was formed by merging Vanbrugh Castle School with an existing School, Woolpit, at the Ewhurst site.
Woolpit House, our ‘Old Hall’, had been built by Sir Henry Doulton of the Doulton pottery family in 1886. Sir Henry’s biographer, Edmund Gosse, wrote that he had been ‘permanently bewitched’ by the beauty of the spot in which he chose to build his house. ‘He announced, with a conviction which he maintained to the last, that there was more beauty of scenery in the parish of Ewhurst than was to be found, equally composed and combined, in any other parish in England. When gently reminded that he had not seen all the English parishes, he admitted it, and said that, after seeing Ewhurst, one would not want to see them.’
On this inspiring site, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund set out to create a new school with an enlightened approach to education. While scholarship was to be pursued, the School had an inclusive ethos from its earliest days and placed emphasis on personal and social, as well as academic, development. The job description for the first teachers stressed: ‘Music, Drama and Sport together with the rudiments of good manners, courtesy and sportsmanship will be the hallmark of the School.’ Duke of Kent School became fully co-educational in 1978.
The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund equipped the School with a Performing Arts Hall and tennis courts, covered the outdoor pool and in 1995 put up a new Sports Hall.
Duke of Kent School continued to serve both RAF and local families as a Prep School until 2003 when our Pre-prep Department opened. Our Nursery followed in 2006. With changing patterns of deployment in the RAF, boarding numbers at the School fell while the local demand for day places grew. In 2008, responding to parental demand, the school began its expansion to GCSE, adding Years 9 to 11. The first Y11 pupils completed their education in July 2012.
The expansion to GCSE saw an influx of teachers in every discipline and the facilities upgraded consistent with the needs of a senior school, including the creation of new Science Labs, the Independent Learning Centre and Personal Fitness Suite.
In 2014, responding to the demand for day places from local families, the Governing Body took the decision to close the Boarding Village; from September 2014 we have continued as a day school. We operate a wrap-around provision of care and optional activities, including supervised homework, beyond the core day, from 7.30a.m. to 7.30p.m., Monday to Friday, for our older pupils.
The School no longer has formal ties with the RAF. We are proud, however, of our RAF roots; our Chamber Choir sings annually at the RAF Benevolent Fund Carol Service at St Clement Danes and we continue to focus on the importance of selflessness and service to the community. The school is now a tenant of the Alexander Duckham Memorial Schools Trust (ADMST), a registered charity and owner of the land and buildings occupied by the school.
Duke of Kent School was an early adopter of mobile technology with an initial 2012 pilot project rapidly extended so that from September 2014 all pupils in the Prep and Senior and their teachers had dedicated iPads to support teaching and learning. In May 2014 a dedicated fibre optic line was installed, securing the speeds and service required by the School community.
In its 40 years of operation, Duke of Kent School has undergone many changes but has maintained throughout its focus on building a positive and supporting community in which each pupil is treated as an individual. It is always a pleasure to welcome back former pupils and staff and to share their reminiscences of life at Duke of Kent School.