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Environmental projects abound – from exhibits in reception, telling us, alarmingly, how much water goes into making a pair of jeans, to a charity stall selling no-longer-needed clothes in aid of Ukraine. ‘It is not fashionable,’ one student reminds us, ‘to love fast fashion.’ If environment and careers are high on the agenda, so is debating. Rhetoric is taught in year 10 – although some parents may feel their daughters have been perfecting the art of persuasion long before this.

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What the school says...

'A spirit of innovation, openness and creativity' pervades Putney High School, according to the Independent Schools Inspectorate which awarded the school the highest possible grading in every category.

Putney is spirited, ambitious and above all, relevant. The school has a forward-thinking, down-to-earth approach that encourages a love of learning and develops the transferable “real world” skills that help students to make their mark in the world.

Academically excellent, pupils are supported within a warm and vibrant community that encourages them to be curious and to branch out intellectually.

Students develop transferable skills that will set them apart in their future lives: Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship are just some of the many ways that students are encouraged to be resourceful, innovative and develop the creativity to “think differently”.

Putney leads in digital innovation – all girls have their own iPads, learn coding and are digitally literate.

There is outstanding opportunity in Art, Design, Drama, Music and Sport. Girls get involved, try new things and develop confidence.

Girls have a voice and stand up for what they believe in, building leadership skills and taking ownership in all aspects of school life from lessons in oracy to the many student led societies.

Entry is as follows: 4+ by friendly, informal assessment. 7+ by friendly, informal assessment, during which girls complete papers in English, Maths and Non Verbal Reasoning. 11+ by interview and entrance examination in English (essay and comprehension) and Maths. Jan for September. Sixth Form – Interview. At least three A* grades and at least three A grades at GCSE (or at least three grade 8s and three grade 7s) including at least an A/7 in the subjects chosen for A level study. For some subject combinations, entry requirements may be higher.
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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.




What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Jo Sharrock, currently head of Shrewsbury High School since 2018 and previously deputy head pastoral at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School in Bristol. Raised in southeast London, history degree from Leeds. Tried her hand in the finance industry including for HSBC, ABN AMRO, NatWest Stockbrokers and Goldman Sachs but upon realising it really wasn’t her bag she did a TEFL course ‘because I fancied to go overseas’ which led to her ‘epiphany moment’. Spent 14 years at QEH, teaching history and politics and climbing the leadership ladder, including becoming the school's first female deputy head. Married. Her favoured outdoor pursuits of hiking and climbing (she is a qualified mountain leader). Also enjoys swimming and skiing. Her travel bug has taken her far and wide including to Africa, Australasia, Europe and the Americas.


Applications for 11 online by early November in the year prior to entry. Bespoke online maths and English exams are followed, if successful, by Athena assessment which includes group discussion and one-to-one interview. Almost all junior school pupils now move into senior school which leaves around 60 places for ten times as many applicants from a wide range of schools. Demand for the 15 or so sixth form places has pushed up admission requirements: at least five GCSEs at 8/9, and three further subjects at 7, including English and maths.


Retention is around 80 per cent post GCSE. School has worked hard at this, and says girls stay because ‘they are happy and can use the school as a springboard to wherever they want to go.’ Popular destinations include Durham, Edinburgh and Bristol. History, biological sciences and law courses feature widely. Eight to Oxbridge in 2023, and seven medics. Increasing numbers overseas - five to US universities, with students heading off to Tufts, Duke, University of Richmond, University of Southern California and University of Virginia, two to Canada and Spain.

Latest results

In 2023, 90 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 66 per cent A*/A at A level (88 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 82 per cent 9-7 at GSCE; 70 per cent A*/A at A level (92 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

The Athena Centre is the neo-classical (think grandeur, tall columns), cross-curricular home for science and the arts - music, drama and debating. The goddess Athena is associated with wisdom and warfare, the latter not necessarily put to best use in a classroom setting, but strategy and courage are always useful. Designed by ‘sustainable’ architect Clare Bowman, also responsible for research into the pioneering use of plant power to boost student health and wellness, for which the school won a gold medal at Chelsea flower show. The impact of biophilic design found an improvement in air quality; students said they felt healthier and had better focus. And they look good too; Homes and Gardens would be proud. Environmental projects abound – from exhibits in reception, telling us, alarmingly, how much water goes into making a pair of jeans, to a charity stall selling no-longer-needed clothes in aid of Ukraine. ‘It is not fashionable,’ one student reminds us, ‘to love fast fashion.’

The Athena programme inspires students to stretch themselves and explore passions beyond the syllabus: essay competitions, playwriting and exhibition reviews are encouraged. This backbone of ‘scholarship’ offers electives for sixth form, PPE for year 10 and a whole design thinking curriculum (linking maths, physics, computer science, product design and art) for year 9. ‘Physics and DT are massive here,’ we are told. PIE (Putney Ideas Exchange) introduces external speakers, including parents, to talk about what they do; subjects cover all interests, from shoe design to politics, creative writing to neurosurgery. The award-winning careers programme organises careers nights from year 7. ‘Teachers and the careers advisor talk us through A level options and, even if we’re still not sure, it is cool to want to do well here,’ says a phlegmatic sixth former.

If environment and careers are high on the agenda, so is debating. School says it is proud of the cultural change in girls ‘finding their voice’ from the beginning and there was no shortage of ideas being shared on the day of our visit. Debating is a timetabled subject in year 7 and is incorporated across the curriculum in history, politics and English. A ‘Britain on Trial’ debate on the hot topics of healthcare and the environment saw sixth formers cross-examining distinguished key witnesses from the public arena. The debate was live-streamed to the rest of the school and the whole school voted. Rhetoric is taught in year 10 – although some parents may feel their daughters have been perfecting the art of persuasion long before this.

Psychology, business, textiles and product design are among subjects offered at A level from a broad range, including French, German, Italian - with a space technology diploma on the side. Unusually, all girls learn two languages from year 7: one Romance language (French or Spanish) and one non-Romance language (German or Mandarin) and now, from year 9, the option to take up the definitively unromantic coding language Python. An innovative bilingual programme is offered to native speakers, much to the delight of one European parent who felt her daughter could ‘at last learn to read and write her mother tongue’.

Much enthusiasm from students for the teachers’ ‘passionate’ and ‘collaborative’ teaching style. ‘It’s sometimes scary how much they love it.’ ‘They take us up strange avenues and we discover random topics.’ One student told us that her science teacher used to work at CERN so he brings outside knowledge about ‘magical particle physics’ into the classroom. Another honest soul said, ‘I don’t really care what type of shoes the Anglo Saxons wore, but the teachers share facts in such a positive way.’ It feels as if the teachers (who have their own book club, by the way) have a parallel love of learning. One explains how they ‘bust the educational myths and ask the bigger questions: What’s the point of homework? How do we challenge perfectionism in a girls’ school? How do we adapt our teaching to the way the brain works?’ Hence, in a history lesson we observed students draw rather than write down their ideas which, according to research, encourages them to think and engage more.

Learning support and SEN

Around 10 per cent have some sort of SEN or disability (all girls screened for learning difficulties in year 7), including dyslexia and dyspraxia, most of whom receive additional support. Good to hear first-hand from a visually impaired student who told us how positive school has been, to the extent of supporting her to give guided tours around the school for prospective parents. The learning enrichment hub has a good feel. There are workshops and drop-in sessions to support learning, especially at revision time. The school, once again, reminds us of pupil voice: ‘It’s about knowing who to ask for help, and how.’

The arts and extracurricular

The dulcet tones of a school string quartet floated up the four-storey atrium of the Athena Centre on the opening night – a building worthy of a top orchestra let alone a London day school. Instruments, harp to piccolo, are stored in smart purpose-built lockers; sheet music in neat, organised files. Long may this last! The director of music has, we hear from parents, ‘raised the bar’. The first concert after lockdown had a cast of hundreds if not thousands: a choir made up of pupils, parents and alumnae and a professional orchestra. Why a professional orchestra? So students could experience ‘how good this feels’ and to give a budding young composer the chance to conduct her own composition with pros. A number of students attend Saturday music college, which ups the game for the many different orchestras, ensembles and choirs, including an a cappella group. There’s a serious recording studio, too. It feels that music is on a roll; visiting music teachers are professional London musicians.

Drama is led by an ‘indefatigable’ team of teachers who, parents confirm, ‘inspire while letting girls take the reins’. Legally Blonde, a recent sixth form production, was not just performed but also directed and stage-managed by girls. No coincidence that brains trump looks in this high school romance. One student told us how drama is her favourite subject as she loves sharing ideas in a small group, and we could see why. Lively group work ‘exploring eye contact’ was fun to watch. The Performing Arts Centre, connected to the Athena Centre, has raked seating and a professional sound and lighting booth.
In the DT workshop we were proudly shown a very desirable two-storey guinea pig home made out of laser-cut acrylic and plywood: ‘Good for two guinea pigs,’ the young designer said; until they start a family, we mused. Impressive artwork adorns the walls, often inspired by the wealth of museums nearby: sculptures of natural forms and studies of Hokusai’s waves inspired by, respectively, Kew Gardens and the British Museum. Textiles, compulsory for half of each of the first three years, are also popular – not surprising when you hear that the head of textiles used to work at Valentino and is said to have impressed Alexander McQueen. There’s more than a whiff of ‘atelier’ here, if not haute couture, with girls making everything from scratch, including their own patterns. A number of students go on to art foundation courses at top art colleges.

Alongside the more traditional clubs, there’s FemBook, LGBTQ+, PoC (People of Colour) and KnitWits – a bewildering 200 clubs altogether. The photography club, aptly named Click, is run by a professional photographer. PoetrySoc work may be eligible for the poetry festival: 60 poems, judged by a visiting poet, all published in a smart book.


‘Fifth-best school in the country for sport’ – a remarkable achievement for a London day school where some sports pitches are up to a 15-minute drive away. Undeterred, the list of wins is impressive: U19 national lacrosse champions, U13 national schools handball champions, GDST national netball winners, runners up in national table tennis finals, cricket teams batting for victory in the Surrey cup, and the list goes on. The boathouse at Putney bridge has enhanced the rowing provision no end and there are now wins on the river too. Throw into the mix two fitness suites and an Olympian rower who helps girls achieve optimum strength and conditioning, and you get a measure of the importance attached to sport and physical fitness. But it’s not all about winning – or is it? There are eight netball teams and five lacrosse teams in year 7 alone, and 75 per cent of students represent the school at sport. We didn’t come across anyone who resents the emphasis on sport, but we can imagine that in a school of all-rounders it could be tricky fitting everything in. One (maybe modest) parent, whose daughter is ‘quite musical, quite sporty, quite academic’ said her daughter ‘juggles pretty well, and doesn’t feel left out by not being among the starry elite’. One such star told us how school allows her to prioritise her sporting prowess: ‘We find what we love and they help us balance the schoolwork.’

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1893, Putney is one of the later schools to be part of the venerable GDST group. Some parents choose the school specifically for the GDST umbrella: ‘the network and sharing of information provides a wonderful set of potential opportunities.’ Sports tournaments and national music-making with sister schools may be the obvious ones, and the trust is also working hard at reaching as many girls as possible through bursary provision. All applications are ‘means-blind’ which makes for a more socially diverse community.

The original Victorian entrance to the school gives a nod to the heritage; once inside, it has a modern feel. Photographs of notable alumnae taken by Anita Corbin (class of ’76) adorn the walls: Virginia Bottomley, three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan, Sophie Raworth and, in front of the lens for once, Anita Corbin herself, taken by a current student. The vertical houses are named after four illustrious women from the arts – Freya Stark, Kathleen Ferrier, Audrey Hepburn – and, from sport, English racing cyclist Beryl Burton. No house name, as yet, to reflect the school’s commitment to science and innovation, we noticed, and a growing list of women pioneers, even alumnae, from whom to choose.

Imaginative use of space, building upwards rather than outwards, three netball/tennis courts, an Astroturf, and well-tended lawns give the grounds a relatively open feel (although neighbours lament the density of building which encroaches on their otherwise leafy outlook). It was good to see year 11s having fun on the lawn, dressed up as Disney characters, on their last day before GSCE leave. The dedicated sixth form centre, with its seminar rooms and fitness suite, is surely responsible for the healthy retention rate in the 200+ sixth form. Years 12 and 13 share form time, so there is a feeling of togetherness in the sixth form diner, where subsidised meals, from sushi to smoothies (any type of milk, of course) are paid for with a biometric fingerprint. If you just fancy a double espresso on the roof terrace, that’s fine too. It feels like a grown-up space which gives students a taste of independent study before university. A sense of togetherness too in the main school canteen where girls eat alongside teachers, including the head. Healthy choices for all on ‘meat-free Monday’, the day of our visit, including a well-stocked bread bin to ensure that even the pickiest girls won’t go hungry.

Newest additions to school are Athena Centre (for science, music, drama and debating) and Innovation Centre (hub for design thinking - now a sixth form club, AI and robotics – a nod to growing numbers of students pursuing careers in engineering, biological sciences, architecture and other STEM careers)

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

The pastoral team tells us that wellbeing is ‘absolutely’ at the top of the agenda. ‘We work very hard at it. We’re on the front foot, recognising girls’ needs from the get-go.’ Year 7 girls are given time to settle in – no homework in the first two weeks, no exams at the end of the first year. ‘Without wellbeing, girls cannot achieve academically or on the sports field or in any other co-curricular activity. Neither they nor their parents should be afraid to talk about it, and we aim to facilitate this by educating them to find their voice.’ One student tells us how easy it is to talk to someone: ‘We can sign up online to speak to a counsellor; and the school nurse, head of year, form tutors, even a panel of sixth formers are all available.’ ‘Thanks for Asking’ is a student-led wellbeing podcast which opens up discussion on mental health topics: digital wellbeing, managing stress, peer pressure, eating disorders, sexuality issues, diversity – no subject is off-limits. One parent told us, from first-hand experience, that the teachers know the girls so well that they notice if someone is a little under par and ask if everything is okay. Parents appreciate this ‘empathetic, listening ear’ which may alert them too, to a problem. ‘Kinder, friendlier faces you could not imagine,’ said one mother, who clearly finds as much comfort in the pastoral team as her daughter.

Wellbeing week reminds girls of the importance of positive mental health: staff bring in their dogs for Putney Crufts, the Gratitude Wall encourages girls and teachers to post positive messages about each other, and kindness is brought to the fore with initiatives like ‘It starts with me’, to ensure girls look out for each other.

‘Firm but fair’ is how one parent described how the school manages girls who may ‘raise a little ruckus by thinking that the rules don’t apply to them’. School says, ‘We have to listen to students. They need support, a safe space, boundaries, a guiding adult hand. If a student wants to rebel, we need to help them find their identity. We can’t just say no.’

Pupils and parents

A ‘down-to-earth feel’ and a more diverse intake than this affluent southwest London suburb might suggest, partly thanks to GDST bursaries and intake from state schools, particularly in sixth form; 25 per cent of girls have English as an additional language. Parents get involved: they give talks about their own careers, join fundraisers organised by the active parents’ association FOPHS, and are enthusiastic supporters at sports fixtures. Travel to school by public transport, from a five-mile catchment area, is encouraged; indeed, the school has won a gold award for travel from TfL. Parents talked appreciatively of their daughters’ ‘independent, feisty friends’. In the lower years ‘socialising’ might mean a hot chocolate in the high street after rowing club – or at least that’s what the parents think.

Money matters

Academic, music and sport scholarships offered at 11+. Art, drama and DT scholarships also available in sixth form, and modern foreign languages and science scholarships to girls who have been at the school since year 7.

The last word

Perceptions of the school are changing. Breadth of curriculum, ‘almost overwhelming opportunity’, importance of wellbeing and acceptance of the individual mean that Putney has become a very popular choice all the way through to the sixth form. Girls are given the confidence to be who they want to be. As one parent said, ‘If your daughter is a bright spark and thriving, the possibilities are limitless.’

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Provision for Special Learning Difficulties is through the mainstream curriculum; the student's needs are recognised and provided for through differentiation. In addition, during each Key Stage, the student's specific needs are regularly reviewed and if appropriate, extra curricular learning support is available with a specialist teacher or parents are advised to make arrangements for specialist tuition. Additional time is allocated for the annual school examinations, public examinations and in the entrance test (after submission of a report). If the student's needs identify that a laptop needs to be used in lessons this is allowed but the student is requested to provide hardware. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

Who came from where

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