Financial provision creates a more equal world for all, says Cheryl Giovannoni
Access and social mobility have been at the heart of our purpose at the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) since our foundation 150 years ago. Throughout our 150th anniversary year, we have been paying tribute to the four pioneering women who founded the GDST with a vision that all girls would have the same educational opportunities as their brothers. Their passionate belief in gender equity continues to motivate and inspire us at every level of our organisation today, across all 23 of our independent schools and our two academies.
We have always been deeply invested in reaching as many girls as possible through our bursary programmes. We are therefore thrilled to be growing our bursary provision even further, as part of our 150th anniversary celebrations, creating an additional 150 full, life-changing awards over the next four years, for pupils joining our schools in Year 7 from September 2023. In addition to this hugely ambitious fundraising target, 435 students across our family of schools have received a 100% bursary and 844 more are receiving a bursary of more than 50 percent.
The GDST is in the business of educating tomorrow’s thinkers and leaders who can respond to the complex challenges we face and then go on to help design a brighter, more equal and more inclusive future for all. We are also in the truly humbling position of being able to observe, first-hand, the diverse range of opportunities that our bursaries offer to bright and ambitious girls who would otherwise not be able to benefit from being a member of the GDST family.
Last year, Lene, an outstanding bursary student and recent Sheffield Girls’ alumna, decided to pursue a career in teaching after she was inspired by her experiences at school. She had thrown herself into volunteering and community work, including two partnership programmes with local primary schools since joining the school. Lene’s passion for mentoring younger students who have similar backgrounds to hers, coupled with the benefits of learning in the empowering environment provided by her school, leaves me in no doubt that she is well on her way to becoming a change maker of the future.
Since I have touched on the broader topic of giving back, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the important role that our donors, partners and supporters play in expanding our bursary provision. Much of the GDST’s philanthropic success would not have been achieved without their unflagging belief in what we do, and the energy with which they get behind our initiatives.
Since 1998, our donors have helped us to educate over 6,600 pupils at our schools by helping fund bursary places, and in any single year, they will be supporting more than 1,000 students. From making financial donations, giving their time to support pupils and alumnae across our family of schools, they help us realise our overall ambition to reach as many girls as possible. We could never thank them enough for the role they play in helping us create a more equal world where more girls can learn without limits, and go on to lead lives without limits, making the world a better place for us all.
While our long-term goal is to make the presence of women in boardrooms, research laboratories and space capsules the norm rather than the exception, I firmly believe that as educators of girls and young women, we can accelerate the pace of change by improving access and social mobility whenever possible. By backing talented girls from all walks of life to fulfil their potential, we believe the possibilities are limitless.
Cheryl Giovannoni is Chief Executive, Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST).