150 Years of GDST: Celebrating a milestone in girls’ education

Today we celebrate the GDST’s 150th birthday. In 1872, the four founders of the Girls’ Day School Trust embarked on a mission that would change the course of girls’ education forever. Our very first schools – Kensington Prep and Notting Hill & Ealing High School – were established at a public meeting held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The ambition was to make a first-class education available to as many girls as possible.

These four brave women – Lady Stanley of Alderley, Maria Grey, Mary Gurney and Emily Shirreff – dedicated their lives to making sure that girls were given the same opportunities as their brothers, at a time when opportunities for girls to be educated were scarce and hard won. Their mission has burned bright ever since and is reflected in the ambition and innovation in each of our schools today.

I believe, without any doubt, that in today’s complex, contradictory and pressurised world, girls’ education has never been more important. As we celebrate our 150th birthday and reflect on the noteworthy achievements of the past, we should remember that each one of us is playing our individual part in writing this chapter of the GDST’s history, to be celebrated by girls and women for generations to come.

This week, at the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference in Boston, I will share with delegates from around the world new evidence that we at GDST have uncovered about how girls learn best and how the work we do in schools is breaking down many of the barriers that can hold them back. We have clear evidence that girls do genuinely thrive, not just in a girls’ school, but in a GDST school, more than they might do anywhere else.

Three of our Heads and 20 teachers from across GDST schools will join me in Boston to present their research findings, each one helping build the case for the powerful education we are renowned for. They have all dedicated their time to investigating how girls can be better served through a GDST education, with a wide range of projects examining how to equip girls with the skills they will need in the future.

Part of the mission of the founders of the GDST was to reach as many girls as possible. I am delighted to announce that, in honour of that mission and to mark our 150th birthday, we are launching a fundraising campaign for an additional 150 transformational, life-changing bursary places to enable even more girls from diverse backgrounds to benefit from a GDST education.

As part of our birthday celebrations, girls from across the GDST were asked what they value most about their education. I loved listening to all the messages, from the youngest girl in reception to our sixth formers who are about to finish their final exams, as well as alumnae, looking back at their time at a GDST school.

Here are Alice, Anvi and Gabby and talking about what the GDST and girls’ education means to them.

Today is a time for celebration. Every member of our GDST family has played a part in making our schools brilliant places where girls can learn without limits, so they go on to lead lives without limits, contributing to making the world a better place for us all.