Be as brilliant as you can be

The GDST’s Inspire events for Sixth Formers were, well, inspirational

GDST Sixth Form students gathered at events across the UK earlier this month for a day of inspirational talks and networking. The Inspire days aimed to provide Year 12 students with encouragement, support and food for thought as they considered their futures.

GDST CEO Cheryl Giovannoni welcomed students to the Inspire South event at the Royal Institution, London, telling girls, “these are the best two years of your GDST education”. Ms Giovannoni delivered a rousing speech, encouraging girls to explore new opportunities and “spread your wings as far and fast as they will take you”.


She also told the audience that they were surrounded by a unique family; GDST Sixth Formers join a network of 70,000 alumnae, “it’s one of the most valuable things we can give you,” she said.

Girls from Sutton High, Portsmouth High, Sydenham High, Brighton Girls, Croydon High, and Streatham & Clapham High schools then heard a talk by BBC journalist Samira Ahmed who said: “Don’t be afraid of being difficult. The GDST gave me a sense of confidence, the real world doesn’t treat you as fairly.”

GDST Inspire Conferences 2019

She talked about the need for women to keep fighting for greater equality, citing people such as Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson who broke new ground, presenting a political speech wearing a baby in a sling. Ahmed told the students to be each other’s allies, create networks and share information. “You young women are getting an amazing education. Be as brilliant as you can be.”

Matilda Hayes, a Sixth Former from Norwich High, was at Inspire East held at Churchill College, Cambridge. Students from Bromley High, Blackheath High, Northampton High and Norwich High listened to motivational speaker Hayley Barnard’s story of her “incredible journey” trekking to Baffin Island in the Arctic Circle. “Her story of resilience, determination and motivation was truly inspiring,” said Matilda.

Students at each Inspire day also played a game of ‘mingle bingo’, designed to get girls mixing with other girls from different schools. “It’s a surprisingly good ice breaker,” said Matilda. “I got talking to some girls from Bromley High and we had a brilliant time.”

Inspire North GDST

In London, a panel of three GDST alumnae in their early twenties shared their thoughts on their university and first job experiences. Grishma Shanbhag, who went to Sutton High School and then Cambridge told students: “Try everything – do as much work experience as you can and be open to changing your mind.”

Elizabeth Maclennan, an engineer who went to the University of Bath after Portsmouth High School said: “I came here today because when I was this age I would have loved to hear from people five years further on.”

Hannah Harvey, Head of Sixth Form at Sutton High, and an organiser of Inspire South, said: “We chose these alumnae because they are only a few years senior to the GDST Sixth Formers. We knew their experiences would really resonate with the girls.”

Mya Salau, a Sixth Former at Sydenham High School, summed up her experience of Inspire perfectly, saying, “It’s been a great opportunity to network and meet GDST alumnae.”

This year we also introduced our Inspire Conferences to the North of England. Read about our Inspire North event.