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A radical history

In 1872 a public meeting was called in the Royal Albert Hall by two sisters, Maria Grey and Emily Shirreff, supported by Mary Gurney and Lady Stanley of Alderley, as well as peers, MPs and other senior men and women in society and education. Soon afterwards the GDST was formally founded, under the patronage of HRH Princess Louise.

Maria and Emily were firm and early believers in the principles established by Friedrich Fröbel – especially, that children have unique needs and capabilities. The first school opened in Chelsea in January 1873 with 16 pupils. Between 1873 and 1895 over 20 more schools were established in London and other English cities.

In 1944 the GPDST (Girls’ Public Day School Trust, as we were then known) joined in the Government's Direct Grant Scheme, but preferring to remain academically selective, reverted to full independence when the scheme was discontinued in 1976. Under the Government’s Assisted Places Scheme, the GPDST was the largest provider of independent senior school places for disadvantaged young people, from 1981 until the Scheme’s closure in 1997. In 1998 we dropped the word ‘Public’ and became the Girls’ Day School Trust. 



Since its foundation in 1872, the GDST has never wavered in our belief in the uniqueness of its individual pupils, nor in our commitment to equipping them to succeed.

View the GDST timeline