Hilary Quinn

As part of our research for this campaign, we discovered 3 sisters who all attended what was then Brighton & Hove High School in the 60s and 70s, all benefitting from the direct grant system. We felt it would be impossible to ask just one to share their experiences and so decided to include Alison, Hilary and Helen together.

The sisters told us: ‘We were always aware that without financial support, we would not have been at the High School; at the time, we probably took it for granted as children do, but we are all eternally grateful for the educational opportunities we had’.


“I think I was always aware that I was receiving financial assistance when I was at school. My earliest memories at Brighton & Hove High are the friendships we had and the strong community feel in both our class and with our parallel class. I struggled quite a bit at school but I worked hard. Even so, learning didn’t come naturally to me and I didn’t find anything very easy! I remember some lessons more than others though and was aware that subjects, particularly like English literature, were difficult. However, I always looked forward to going to school and I never had a “I don’t want to go” feeling.  What I remember most fondly was anything related to music. I loved the school choir, the carol services at Christmas and the work we did with the local churches.

As a recipient of financial assistance I don’t ever remember feeling disadvantaged and I knew that there were different circumstances for different families. I never felt that I was singled out or treated any differently to anybody else and it certainly wasn’t a factor as to how I progressed. I know that without the support, my sisters and I wouldn’t have been able to go to the high school and would therefore have had to have gone to one of the more local schools instead, which were mostly much bigger and where I think I would probably have found things even harder.

During my time at both Brighton & Hove High and Putney High, where I later went to school, I felt I was getting a high standard of education, something I maybe took for granted. I think I assumed that that it was the same everywhere. It is often only as you get older that you realise that, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

After I left school I went to the Royal Academy of Music in London for three years to do their degree equivalent graduate course. I took piano and singing as a joint first study. After that I did a PGCE and I now teach primary school music which incorporates a lot of piano and singing! I learnt a couple of other instruments along the way, but having an older sister who was very good at the cello (and later the double bass) meant I gave up the cello because I was nowhere near as good as she was.

My time at the two GDST schools taught me about hard work and that hard work was expected. There were few distractions at school and we all focused on our education. Having a bursary gave me the chance of an excellent education where high standards were normal and expected and I don’t think that I would have even got into the R.A.M otherwise, specifically because of those high expectations of everyone as to what they could achieve.

If I met a bursary recipient today I would tell her to take every opportunity that she could, to understand just how lucky she was and not to take anything for granted, as I think that is so easy to do, particularly when you’re young and you don’t realise.

Bursaries are definitely still as important today because there seems to be a bigger and bigger gap between the “haves” and “have nots” as far as finances are concerned.

If one is in a position to donate towards bursaries it could change someone’s life, not only their own life but possibly the lives of those around them as well, such as their partners, children or others. A bursary can have a very major impact”.

Hilary Quinn
Music Teacher
Alumna, Brighton & Hove High School (now Brighton Girls)
Class of 1979

Make a donation

Support the GDST or one of our individual schools

Follow us to find out when each new podcast is available
Find a