Resilience has to be key. The Times newspaper recently reported that in some schools and universities, Generation Z (needing some intellectual toughening up) were being given classes on the art of disagreeing well. There is definitely something in this and it is no coincidence that resilient mindsets are something we champion at Putney, for every pupil, from day one. In fact, listening and learning to express ideas clearly are cornerstones of the education we offer. We know that to articulate your ideas, you also need to be able to listen to others’ points of view, especially if you want to win respect, or ever effect change.
Intellectual sparring is a great thing, and something which Putney pupils are not afraid of. So much so that the school now has a dedicated Debating Forum – a central hub for timetabled debating lessons for everyone and hours of clubs and competitions each week through which students learn to think clearly, to empathise with others and to persuade.
Access to a broad range of views gives students more confidence to engage, to think critically and to develop their own independent thinking. Our PIE programme (Putney Ideas Exchange) has for years exposed pupils to a plethora of speakers from different fields, often with challenging ideas.
Learning to speak and listen well are fundamental to Putney’s ethos, but as in any democratic culture, if we are to make progress, argument alone is not enough. For reasoned debate to succeed unclouded by distinctly human emotions and values, then we also need trust, accountability and honesty.
Student voice is very much part of that, and our Student Council meets regularly, led by the Student Leadership Team and with representatives from every year group ready to tackle subjects as diverse as the Environment, Diversity and always a hot topic: the lunch menu. The result is a platform for ideas and honest discussion with staff and a vehicle for positive change.