Posted: 2 September, 2019

Residency Programme – A Legacy for Future Generations

Alumnae, Blog, Careers, Debating, General, Guests, In the Press, Interview, Past Events, Senior School, Sixth Form, Suzie Longstaff

At Putney we recognise that many important life skills can best be learnt outside the classroom. More than “the icing on the cake of education” these are essential elements of the mix that can help pupils embark confidently into the working world, equipped to achieve their future ambitions – whatever those may be.

Our ongoing Residency programme has for several years been offering students access to specialists in their fields, keen not only to share their knowledge, but to instil the kind of work-ready attributes that are so highly valued by universities and prospective employers the world over.

So far, our students have had the opportunity to learn from and work with a Writer, a Poet, an Orchestra, an Entrepreneur and a Director in Residence.

In September 2018 we welcomed our first Orator in Residence, to work with pupils and staff on a programme of public speaking and to help embed debating more firmly within the curriculum – intellectual agility and the ability to articulate ideas with courage and conviction being valuable tools not only for life, but for learning in any subject, from Humanities to Science.

The impact in the last year alone has been remarkable. From “Power Poses” to the “Putney Soapbox,” new oratorical initiatives have sparked the imagination of a generation of enthusiastic public speakers. Putney’s debaters have been finalists in the prestigious ESU Mace Debating competition, they have taken on teams at Dulwich College to compete in the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition, have hosted the second London Junior Debating League and won each of their three cases before a judge in the Independent Schools Mock Trial Competition at the Inner London Crown Courts.

The sixth in our line of residencies, the Orator was the third to be paid for by the school community through their generous contributions to the Putney Fund. Twelve months on, the year-long residency has been so successful that our Orator, Miss Kiek, has now been taken on as a permanent member of staff, to carry on the debate and to ensure that Putney continues to stand up and speak out for what it believes in.

Unlike exam results, the legacy of such a gift can be hard to measure. It is often not until we hear from a long departed alumna that we learn how she has gone on to set up her own business, encouraged by an experience she had while at school, or how she has segued into an entirely new career, after a seed of thought was planted by an influential guest. There may be no league table to inform us on the impact of this approach, but the clear enthusiasm with which pupils, parents and alumnae receive our Residency project give us an indication of its value.

At Prizegiving in July 2019, we welcomed the return to Putney of Becky Fatemi (class of 1995). One of the most influential women in the UK property industry, Becky recounted her journey to the top and the many lessons she had learnt along the way, many of which she credited to values instilled in her while at the school.

Today Becky has her own way of “giving back”, her Shadow to Shine initiative offers guidance and life-changing opportunity to hundreds of disadvantaged young Londoners to whom she can give a hand up on the ladder through mentoring and work experience in some of the city’s top companies.

What greater gift can there be than opportunity – opening eyes, minds and doors to the many things this exciting world has to offer? The legacy of Becky’s work, and of our Residency programme may not yet be apparent, and it may be some years before we see one of Putney’s budding orators gracing the public stage, but I bet it won’t be long.

For the time being, thank you. Thank you to all of those whose generosity allows us to feed the many curious minds that walk our corridors. These are lessons they will remember.

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