Posted: 6 July, 2020

Teacher to Governor

Alumnae, General, News, Senior School

Mrs Maud Matley

I first joined Putney High School in 1986 as Head of Modern Languages and walked straight into a strong and loyal department.

The buildings looked and felt rather different three decades back. Cromwell, then the main building, still held the atmosphere of a large Victorian house. Our classrooms were tucked under the eaves and felt like servants’ bedrooms. Our language lessons, then French, German and Italian, were largely carried out here, or in Homefield which still had chalk blackboards. I was dismayed that the boards were so scratched that they bore ready-made French accents causing great confusion.

In the 1990s, Galbraith was built, and Modern Languages now had a suite of classrooms: luxury. No more lugging around of tape-recorders! Each classroom had an overhead projector, and we were able to project pictures on to the beautifully smooth white roller-boards. Spanish came into the curriculum, and Italian, which had been reserved for Sixth Form students, departed.

Trips abroad were surely my favourite aspect of teaching, but also my biggest nightmare – a girl without a passport, homesickness; and yet, the wonderful nocturnal cruises on the River Seine, the roller-skating café in Futuroscope and hot chocolate in the gardens of Versailles.

In humility, we languages teachers know that a language is best acquired in the native culture, best of all in a family. We arranged numerous exchanges to our partner-school in Lyon, and the girls returned to England eager to express themselves, having broken through a linguistic barrier.

Then came Mandarin in the new millennium, and this brought a whole new dimension to the Department, with tea-ceremonies, chop-stick skills and the possibility of cooking with a wok in lessons (soon forbidden by Health and Safety). We were quick to find a partner school in Beijing, and the following year, I led a trip with 14 girls to stay in the Old Town of Shanghai. Water-cities, water-chestnuts, eye-exercises in school, a grotto for meditation in the school-grounds. All so different.

By now I had tackled several jobs at Putney. I became Senior Teacher in the 90s, playing a key role in Senior Management. I particularly loved delivering assemblies and a highlight came when the Head, Mrs Merchant, had me acting out the side-kick’s role in Mission Impossible to gales of laughter as I struggled with my outmoded trainers. I also loved the Staff Christmas Panto.

An event at which I did not excel was the Staff Fashion Parade. I had to model a gold-sequined evening gown and cape and was coached in how to do a twirl, swinging my cape casually over my shoulder. To my horror, the lady who coached us was present, which made me nervous and, of course, my casual pivot nearly made me tumble off the catwalk.

I retired in 2009 from a department looking very different from the one I had inherited in 1986. What a privilege it was to be invited to join the Governing Board one year later. And I have particularly enjoyed my special role with the Juniors. I have attended many lessons with Early Years, indeed all year-groups, sometimes sitting on tiny chairs and cutting dough, or following the development of the pastoral programme now deeply embedded in the curriculum. A grand moment came when I was invited to open the Log Cabin.


From my first day of teaching at Putney to my last Governor visit to a classroom in 2020, I have found every pupil in the school – from Early Years to Oxbridge students – original, quirky and delightful.

My decades of involvement with Putney have been privileged ones, each girl and member of staff providing rich treasure: thank you everyone, and just enjoy this unique and wonderful school, as I have done!

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