Putney Ideas Exchange reaches beyond the confines of the school curriculum

Putney High School took the unprecedented step of allowing the whole senior school to “bunk off” the usual timetable in favour of a day of learning what can only be described as “cool stuff.” They were learning not with the aim of passing an exam, but purely for its own sake. 

Entitled “PIE₂” the event formed part of the school’s Putney Ideas Exchange programme, an innovative and entirely different learning experience designed to push the boundaries of thought and the confines of the school curriculum. All senior school students and staff indulged their curiosities for the day and it wasn’t just Putney that benefited. Keen to encourage as many students as possible to get involved, Putney High School invited two local schools (Ark Putney and The Priory C of E) to join the voyage of discovery.

Dr Susan Blackmore, lecturer, broadcaster and expert on parapsychology and evolutionary theory,  asked the packed assembly to think about the nature of consciousness, asking mind-bending questions like “where in the brain is the Self?” and “does a woodlouse have an awareness of what it is like being a woodlouse?” Tough but intriguing questions for a Monday morning and certainly thoughts to puzzle even the least curious mind.

Plato famously asserted the belief that we all have “multiple intelligences”, musical intelligence being just one of these. Championing the musical pattern approach to learning was Suzi Digby OBE, conductor, music entrepreneur and educationalist, who reassured a rapt audience that while the path through life can sometimes seem an uncertain one, an essential part of the journey is actually about “finding out who you are and following your instincts to do what you are really passionate about.”

Students were treated to an array of workshops, panel debates and other guest experts from worlds as diverse as Arts leadership, cyber security, humanitarian charities and investment banking. Alumnae Alison Baum (Class of 1988) and Alison Dogilewski (neé Bishop, Class of 1997) were involved in the day, returning to share their expertise with current students.  The action was live streamed and there were opportunities for students to submit questions via a video booth, as well as interactive activities online.

Polymath, Bobby Seagull, of University Challenge fame, ended the day by reminding pupils to “be the best version of ourselves”. PIE₂ was one day that gave that opportunity; a chance to face unanswerable questions and to explore ideas not previously encountered.