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Since 1872

A radical history

In 1872 a public meeting was called in the Royal Albert Hall by two sisters, Maria Grey and Emily Shirreff. They were firm and early believers in the principles established by Friedrich Fröbel – in particular, that children have unique needs and capabilities – and sought to establish schools based on these principles. As a result the Girls’ Public Day School Trust (GPDST) was founded and in January 1873 the first school opened in Chelsea with 16 pupils. Between 1873 and 1895 over 20 more schools were established in London and other English cities.

In 1944 the GPDST 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. 

In more recent years, two academies have joined the GDST network: The Belvedere Academy in 2007 and Birkenhead High School Academy in 2009.

Maria Grey and Emily Shirreff saw girls as individuals and wanted to equip them to thrive. It’s a commitment we’ve maintained and from which we’ll never waver.

Interactive timeline

We have created this online history of the GDST and of British women's history since 1870. We would welcome any contributions from alumnae, staff and parents - we would love to hear any stories or see any photographs that you or your relatives have of attending or teaching at a GDST school over the years.