As Mr. Wilmot A. Perera had some scholarly pursuits he visited India in Early 1930's. He also had been interested on freedom struggle in India and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. After his second visit to India he had the concept of forming a school on his own funding. So he invited Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore to visit Sri Lanka to lay the foundation stone for a school and to get his blessing for the school. Making his dream true, Gurudev visited Sri Lanka in 1934. Accordingly the foundation stone for Sri Palee was laid by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on 20th May in 1934 at a very beautiful place called Kapukula in Horana, where now the world famous school lies.
By this time some famous Buddhist schools were started due to the educational revival initiated by Sir Henry Steel Olcott. So Sri Palee was an initial experiment and a new school for the future.
The name "Sri Palee" was suggested by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Until the main hall was erected, the school continued to add classes in a cadjan thatched hut, Mr. Sirimanna Fonseka becomes the first principal and many other teachers were appointed. Mr. and Mrs. Perera also taught in the school.
At the very inception there were four sections in the school. They were "Patha Bavana", "Vidya Bavana", "Kala Bavana" and Shilpa Bavana". In these four sections various subjects like music, dancing, book binding, leather work, pottery work, wood work, weaving dress making and arts were taught. English was also a subject that every student should follow. But Sripalee was not an English school.
By mid 1936 Mr. Wilmot A. Perera had to change the prevailing system of the school because some people criticized that the students found it difficult to find jobs by learning subjects like dancing and music. So he decided to make it an English school protecting its national goals. Accordingly every student who learnt English had to follow a craft or an art subjects in the evening sessions.
As Sri Palee became an English school the administration had to be changed accordingly. So a person with the necessary qualifications, experience and training became the new principal. He was Mr. Surasena Weerakoon.
As the school progressed, Mr. Wilmot A. Perera had to face many problems from time to time. Finding principals and teachers was one such problem. Mr. Wilmot A Perera met Mr. Earlin Perera of Sri Rahula Vidyalaya , Katugastota. He assumed duties when Mr. Weerakoon left as principal. Mr. Earlin Perera invited his beloved teacher Mr. G.P Ariyarathna who was the principal of a Buddhist school at Dodanduwa.
Mr. Ariyaratna's first task was teaching. He had immense experience in teaching even in India . Pupils who knew Mr. Ariyaratna came to Sri Palee from every nook and corner of the country. As a result of that student population in the school increased rapidly. To meet the demand of the increasing number of pupils new class rooms and school hostels were constructed.
Mr. Ariyarathna was devoted teacher. He worked in the morning , afternoon, at weekends and also during holidays. The number of students in Sri Palee already increased under the guidance of Mr. Ariyarathna and the number of competent teachers increased accordingly.
During earlier days morning assembly was held inside the "Ravindra" hall. Later it was taken to the place where it is held now. Earlier students listened to speeches in the assembly and went to their respective classes. Later students walked in a perahera singing a few songs after which they went to their classes. Still this tradition continues.
The founder's day was started with a proposal by Mr. Ariyarathna. It is 12th June which is the birthday of Mr. Wilmot A. Perera; it was a very joyful day for children as they were treated with Kiribath and many other eatables. Mr. Wilmot A Perera also mingled with the children on this day.
As a remedy for lack of buildings in the school Mr. Wilmot A. Perera completed one building on every founder's day. Accordingly the buildings such as "Nimaline" "Darshane" "Kalani" "Vidyadharee" "Pushpanjalee" "Sulochane" and "Chaturangine" were erected.
For the first time a carnival called "Sri Palee Mela" was started in 1944 as 10 th anniversary. Students undertook the organization. This carnival was very famous in the island and thousand of visitors from every nook and corner of the country enjoyed this.
In 1948 university entrance classes were started and it was very successful. In the next two decades university entrance results reached very high standards.
Golden Era of Sri Palee
By 1950 the name Sri Palee was on everybody's lips. The school was developing rapidly. Student population and number of teachers increased rapidly under the able guidance of Mr. G.P. Ariyarathna. Science education was limited to a few schools in big cities. So Mr. Wilmot A Perera thought of giving science education to poor children and it was difficult to find graduate teachers for the task. So he brought down teachers from India . Among them Miss Mariamma Versis, Mr. and Mrs. Abraham, Mr. S. Sundara Murthi were prominent. In 1953 the school was lifted to a Grade one school. A separate primary section was started and Mr. Kamal Athukorala became the head of that section. By that time parents had a keen interest in sending their children to Sri Palee for the education.
Mr. Wilmot A Perera thought deeply about the continuation of Sri Palee after him. So he decided to have a legal document (body) with regard to its property and administration. Accordingly The Sri Palee Trust was increased. The properties entrusted to Sri Palee cannot be regained ever by Perera family according to the document.
Mr. Wilmot A Perera soon realized the importance of getting all the pupils boarded. But he failed to construct buildings for all the pupils. However two separate hostels were set up for girls and boys and they were fully crowded. Basic facilities such as water and electricity were also given to these hostels.
Cultural Relationship with China
One of the objections of Sri Palee was to have cultural relationship with China . Accordingly Mr. Wilmot A Perera became the first Sri Lankan Ambassador to China . To strengthen the cultural ties, he introduced Chinese dancing to Sri Palee. He brought down Miss Sung Kuwa Yeng to teach Chinese dancing to our students.
Relationship with India
Sri Palee was started by the influence of the Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. But not only the Gurudev's relationship, Sri Palee was fortuned to get the touch of prominent Indian personalities such as Pandith Jawaharlal Nerhu, Chinthamane Deshmuck, Wijayaluxhmee Pandith, Sarojinee K Naidu, Sir Sarwapalli Radhakrishnan etc. With the relationship of the founder Sri Palee got Indian cultural troupes and same time Sri Palee send some Sri Lankan dancing teams to India . Mr. Perera was able to get down some teachers from India.
Acquisition of Schools by the Government
Sri Palee was taken over by the government in 1960 with 9 ½ acres of land. Some buildings including "Arundathi" hall were left to Mr. Perera with about 22 acres of land. The principals, deputy principals and teachers got transfers and promotions to various institutions.
As the government acquired the school, the teachers and principals became government teachers and got transfers to various schools in the island. This came to Mr. Wilmot A. Perera as a great shock but determined to serve the children in the area. Accordingly he established Sri Palee Fine Arts Institutes with the remaining properties. This institute served the students in various fields of fine arts and created prominent figures in the island. In 1979 with the agreement of board of trustees this property used to start Fine art campus of Kelaniya University . After a few years this faculty was taken back to Colombo . At present the Sri Palee campus of Colombo University is functioning in this premise.
Sri Palee as Government School
Sri Palee now as a government school received facilities from the government. New buildings were erected but they were according to the government rules and regulations. So the new buildings damaged the aesthetic values of the school. But due to various influences, the buildings received in later stages were erected protecting the beauty of the school to some extent.
After Mr. Ariyarathna's era, the next principal of the Sri Palee was Mr. Dunston Fernando. He served institution from 1958 to 1962. The first sports meet was held in 1954. This became the foundation for annual sports meet. Mr. Luxman Perera took the initiative to improve sports in Sri Palee. In 1958 under Mr. Fernando's guidance college got its play ground, which was donated by Mr. Perera. This was the golden era of Sri Palee sports history.
Then came Mr. Pereliye K. Harishchandra and he had been principal from 1962 to 1963. Mr. Russell Gunarathna had been the principal from 1964 to 1966. Mr. H.R. Perera's period was from 1967 - 1969. During this period, Sri Palee fulfilling the government requirements became a Super Grade school of the country. Mr. W.A.D.S. Gunathilaka had been the principal from 1970 -1971. Then Mr. M.M Punchihetti had been the principal from 1971 - 1974. The Most significant event of this period was the demise of our founder, Mr. Wilmot A. Perera in 1973 and Mr. Punchihetti as the principal of Sri Palee organized the funeral of the founder at his very best.
Then Mr. Daya Samaraweera and Mr. K.U.S Perera respectively became the principals for short periods. Mr. Gamine Gunarathna became the principal in 1977 he had been there for 10 years. Mr. Pagodaarachchi came to Sri Palee as principal in 1987 and died on service in 1994. The next principal Mr. Jayasena Pulsinghe came to school in same year and he retired in 2001. The present principal is Mr. Lakshman Jayakody, a product of the Sri Palee who became the first past pupil principal of the college.
Apart from these principals there were some prominent figures of Sri Palee College , who served as acting principals, deputy principals and heads of the primary section. Among them Mr. Kamal Athukorala, Mr. A.E Helapitage, Mr. P.J.Perera were worth mentioning.
There were other teachers and non academic staff who worked in devotion and dedication for the betterment of the college. Among them Mr. Lal Rodrigo and Mr. K.S Wijeruwan were worth mentioning.
As the student population increased and due to lack of building space for the children, the primary section of the school was shifted to a land in Bellapitiya in 1980. This separation of the college created a big administrative problem and it affected the education level of the college also. But after erecting necessary buildings, the shifted primary section of the college was re-established in the main Sri Palee premises. This initiative was taken by the principal of that period Mr. Jayasena Pulasinghe. In 1993, Sri Palee College became a national school.
The then Sri Palee was very famous for aesthetic subjects and many artists were created. But in the same time Sri Palee produced very prominent figures in other fields such as scientific, medical, engineering, administration etc.
The government started the aesthetic campus and introduced aesthetic subjects to A/ L curriculum in government schools to admit students for aesthetic campus. According to that, in 1975 Aesthetic subjects were introduced to the A/L/ curriculum. Since then students get admissions to universities to study subjects like music, dancing and arts etc.
Special Education Unit
In 1973 special education unit of the school was started. Children with visionary, speaking and hearing disabilities study in this unit and such students of the area are highly benefited from this unit.
The scout group of Sri Palee College is prominent in the Kalutara district. This group has set a record by creating 20 Presidential scouts and 30 cub scouts received the cubs cord. The specialty here is the first presidential scout and first cord cub scout of the Kalutara district are from Sri Palee College .
To fulfill the needs of extra curriculum activities of the Sri Palee students, various activities and facilities are available in the college. Cricket, Athletic, Boxing, Karate, Swimming, Chess, Cadetting, Scouting, girl guides, Badminton, Soukyadana movement, Environmental are name to few.