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An education: girls only please


An education: girls only please

Perhaps near you is a girls’ school with its name and the letters GDST on a board outside. You hear it’s often oversubscribed. But why, in 2010, do parents still pay for girls only education? And the letters GDST – what do they mean?

The Good Schools Guide





The GDST - it’s a family thing

Perhaps near you is a girls’ school with its name and the letters GDST on a board outside. You hear it’s very oversubscribed. But why, in 2010, do parents still pay for girls only education? And the letters GDST – what do they mean?

The GDST Founders

Back in 1871 The Girls’ Public Day School Company (GPDSC) was founded by redoubtable sisters, Emily Shirreff and Maria Grey. They had campaigned for two decades to change society’s attitude to girls’ education which was, literally, Dickensian. Women were seen as wives and mothers with no brains worth educating. Emily and Maria founded The GPDSC with the aim of helping girls to lead useful lives and fulfil their potential for things other than sewing and looking demure. Within just thirty years, there were 37 schools around the country. And The GPDSC dropped  ‘Public’ and ‘Company’ and became a Trust.

GDST schools are top performers

Today the Trust educates 20,000 girls. It has 25 schools plus one prep – 11 of these schools and the prep are in London. All 11 schools take girls from aged 3 until they are 18. A glance at academic league tables shows just how successful they are. It’s a rare year that does not see every one of the 25 featuring in both GCSE and A level tables, with a good crop in the top 20. In this year’s A levels, GDST girls scored 59 % ‘A’ grades, of which 23% were the new ‘A*’s – way above the average for independent schools generally. And the schools are not just crammers. The girls undertake an extraordinary range of activities outside lessons. Take a look at www.gdst.net and you’ll get the idea.

Is boy-free schooling the right choice for your daughter?

So what about boy-free schooling? It won’t be for everyone and some girls chafe at the girliness – though most GDST staffrooms have a healthy mix of male and female teachers these days. GDST schools collaborate with boys’ schools on debates, musical and dramatic collaborations, expeditions etc. And romance does blossom on occasions! Survey after survey insist that, academically, girls do better in an all-girls’ environment. Despite the recession, GDST schools are over-subscribed.

The Trust had a recent confidence wobble – boys’ schools were poaching their bright stars for their sixth forms and no wonder! – but the highly impressive new Chief Executive, Helen Fraser CBE – former managing director of Penguin Books – has no qualms about the robust future of her schools. “We educate more girls than any other organisation in the independent sector and we do it brilliantly,” she declares. GDST Old Girls who include Dame Maggie Smith, Mary Quant, Martha Lane Fox, Helena Bonham-Carter, Julia Neuberger and Bettany Hughes would surely agree.

Susan Hamlyn, Senior Editor, The Good Schools Guide

The Good Schools Guide Advice Service  is a consultancy run by The Good Schools Guide to advise parents, on a one-on-one basis, on choosing the best schools for their children.  The GSG is in a good position to do this because we have visited hundreds of schools – state, independent, junior, senior, day and boarding.  We can put our knowledge and a wide network of personal contacts to work for you.  www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk








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