A Putney-based prep school is doing all it can to ready girls
not only for the 11+but also for life after school,
explains Gillian Upton
Four imposing Edwardian houses on a meandering, tree-lined road in Putney are home to The Falcons School for Girls. The pre-prep and prep school is slowly building its intake of 85 in a one-form entry to 350, eventually filling all four sites.
Staff criss-cross between the four houses – numbers 7, 11, 22 and 24 – on Woodborough Road, a quiet residential street. Formerly Putney Park School, The Falcons moved here from Ealing 12 months ago, and the staff and pupils are still settling in after a year-long refurbishment. The navy-green tartan-clad girls ꀀll bright classrooms bursting with primary colours and contemporary furniture. They each have a laptop or iPad, but they have plenty of scope to let their hair down in the expansive outdoor play area and gardens.
Preparing for Common Entrance is the school’s ultimate goal, but head Joan McGillewie embraces a much broader perspective for her pupils.“It’s not just an academic journey they’re on,” she says. “We also teach them to think laterally; to see multiple answers not just one. We want them to have the ability to argue. It’s why we start them on philosophy in Year 3 – it also helps put the 11+ in perspective.
”Gillewie bases the success of each leaver on their ability to learn, and not which school they go on to. Nonetheless. Falcons girls succeed in getting into an impressive array of schools, including Cheltenham Ladies’ College, St Paul’s Girls, Godolphin & Latimer and Putney High.
Gillewie, a native South African, stresses that Falcons is not a status-symbol school, and winning parents over is her biggest challenge.
“It’s not just an academic journey they’re on,”
she says. “We also teach them to think laterally”
“We have a skewed value system if we judge a child’s success by what school they get into,” she says. Her pitch to parents highlights the optimum learning environment – a mixture of professional staff and a peaceful atmosphere.
“We don’t force homework on our pupils. They need to be inspired to take learning to the next level themselves – it has to be self-desire. My job is to ensure that they’re stimulated by their environment, and to encourage them not to give up.
“A school should set a platform for drive and motivation, then the rest should happen at home. We still expect academic excellence, but not at the cost of life-long learning.
”Gillewie believes that if girls are to succeed in a career, they have to leave school with much more than academic achievements. “Yes, they have to have the basics, but they need to be outgoing and to have a good personality too,” she says. “The people who can think for themselves are the ones who will get the job.”
The Falcons School for Girls
11 Woodborough Road, Putney, London, SW15 6PY
Head Teacher: Miss Joan McGillewie
Registrar: Ms Jacqui Collins
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 020 89925189 Fax: 020 87521635