To mark the GDST’s 150th anniversary, GDST commissioned a landmark survey of 5,000 girls in state and independent schools and academies across the UK. Our aim was to understand what matters most to girls today and how they feel about what lies ahead in their futures – in both their personal and professional lives. 

As global leaders in girls’ education, our mission has always been to deliver an education that empowers girls to thrive when they leave us, in a world that remains far from equal for women. Understanding girls’ perspectives on the challenges they face is central to helping us achieve that mission. These new insights will inform our work for years to come, as we continue to shape the future of girls’ education: one where girls learn without limits, so they can go on to lead lives without limits. 

150 years from our founding, the research – carried out by leading independent experts, YouthSight-Savanta – reaffirms the impact and relevance of a girls-only education, and in particular a GDST education, today.

girls' futures
“I'm lucky to go to a school that really values the aspirations of individual students - that is very uncommon.” – GDST student

The GDST Difference

Our research amongst GDST girls found that, in comparison to girls at other schools across the UK, our students are more passionate about pursuing leadership positions; more comfortable speaking out and expressing their views; and significantly less likely to feel that being a girl holds them back from participating in subjects at school. 

The evidence demonstrates that GDST girls leave our schools feeling more prepared to face their future. They have the confidence to take the lead when it comes to pursuing their ambitions: whether that’s being their own boss, following a non-traditional career path or taking risks to achieve their dreams. They are more able to look after their physical and mental wellbeing – an important reflection of the all-round experience girls have in a GDST environment throughout the school day.  

Like girls in non-GDST schools, GDST girls recognise the importance and value of maintaining a work-life balance. They want to redefine what leadership looks like, in a world where the blueprint for leadership has been created by and for men, and when in today’s world inspiring leadership remains lacking. They passionately described the collaborative, community-centred and mission-led qualities that an ideal leader would possess and their belief that they could become that leader.

Our girls told us that, compared with girls in other schools, they have confidence in their futures and believe they will – and do – go on to lead lives without limits.

Turning insights into action

Girls across the country have given us clear answers on how they see their futures, how they feel about the world around them and what they need education to deliver. 

As educators, our mission remains an important and relevant one: we are uniquely placed to empower girls, to change the course of history and bring equality for women. Girls should be better served, whether they are in a single sex or a co-ed environment. The education sector must come together and examine how schools – in every setting – can better support girls and prepare them for their futures. 

At GDST, our approach focuses on ensuring girls have experiences that will help them overcome barriers, open their eyes to opportunities and ensure they have confidence and belief that they can take on these roles when they leave school. For example, our LEAD programme, in partnership with the LSE, gives girls practical experience of running their own business, supported by mentors. Excellent, ethical entrepreneurship has flourished on the programme; Last year, SpikeSavers, of Birkenhead High School Academy, came up with anti-spiking devices made of recycled materials, and proceeded to explore partnerships with clubs and bars in Liverpool both to market their product and to raise awareness of the issue of spiking.  

Over the coming months and years, these findings will play a significant role in how we, at the GDST, further enhance our provision across the 25 schools in the GDST family, including opportunities to develop more practical skills beyond the curriculum, gain more experience of work environments and explore their desire for social change

With these opportunities that fully focus on what girls need and how they learn, we all want girls to be empowered to embrace the futures they deserve.

We hope that our research will help shape the future for all girls, beyond the walls of GDST schools. True to our charitable purpose of reaching as many girls as possible, we are committed to sharing these insights to help shape the future for girls everywhere. For these reasons, and to provide universal insight for girls everywhere, our published report does not include responses from GDST girls. 

A family of schools

23 independent schools and two academies in England and Wales

Find a