The school was founded in 1885 by the Kent Methodist Schools Association as a 'middle class school' for boys and was taken over by the Board of Management in 1920. It gradually built up a strong academic and sporting reputation, enabling it to compete with Kent's grammar schools. Charles W. Posnett was a pupil teacher 1888-92 under the headmastership of his elder brother Leonard W. Posnett. The England wicket keeper Godfrey Evans was a pupil there and the musicologist Dr Percy A. Scholes was on the staff 1900-1903. Under John Prickett, headmaster 1934-1960, the school survived a devastating fire in 1938 and evacuation to Truro during World War II. An extensive building programme in the 1980s was facilitated by the sale of property bought privately by Prickett. Girls were first admitted in 1973. The school reverted to full independence in 1976 following the withdrawal of the government's Direct Grant regulations. In 2007 there were 662 boarding and day boys and girls from nursery age (at Vernon Holme, Harbledown) to 18.
In 2010 the school entered into a Global Partnership with schools in Tanzania.