Page 1

verve The magazine of the GDST Alumnae Network | Issue 12/13

Crest of a wave

Hannah Mills on London 2012

Reeling in the years GDST generations look back

The woman behind the mask Alumna of the Year Claire Bennett

Welcome to Verve 2012-13, the magazine of the GDST Alumnae Network It has been a jam-packed year, hasn’t it?

When thinking how to mark the anniversary in this edition, we felt there was no better way to capture the essence of our past than through memories of alumnae. Every individual has a very personal and unique recollection of her time at school, but when we set out to interview a sample of alumnae spanning several generations and schools, it was exciting to find how many common threads ran through people’s experiences despite the diverse years and locations. Read more on page 8. To find out more about the 140th celebrations and the latest news from the GDST, go to pages 3 and 6.

Sport also plays a major theme in this edition, as we celebrate the phenomenal success of Hannah Mills (Howell’s) at the Olympics and applaud our deserving Alumna of the Year, champion fencer and charity ambassador, Claire Bennett (Sydenham High). Lastly, turn to the back cover for a listing of cultural and fun networking events lined up for 2013. With best wishes,

Jennifer Grafton

Alumnae Relations Manager


Mary Berry’s Lemon Victoria Sandwich To mark the 140th anniversary of the GDST, many events have taken place, including an inter-school Bake Off (see more on page 6). As part of this special event, we commissioned a cake recipe by Mary Berry - a GDST alumna. The recipe is a delicious Lemon Victoria Sandwich - the Victoria sponge harks back to our foundation while the lemon brings a contemporary twist.

We’ve had the Queen’s Jubilee and the thrill and energy of the Olympics, and for us in the GDST community, we’ve also been making the most of our 140th birthday!

Ever since our first school opened, the GDST has embraced the sciences, and today just shy of 50% of current Sixth Formers study one science subject or more at A level. We spoke to some alumnae who took studying science to the next level, and made it their career. See the article on page 12.


Ingredients 225g (8 oz) butter, softened or baking spread 225g (8 oz) caster sugar 4 eggs 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour 2 level teaspoons baking powder Finely grated zest of 1 lemon Filling and topping About 4 tablespoons lemon curd A little caster sugar

W he n lif e gi ve s yo u lem on s, m ak e

Contacts Email Tel 020 7393 6606 Find us on LinkedIn Registered charity No: 306983 Over 50,000 copies of Verve are mailed to members of the GDST Alumnae Network. For additional printed copies please contact us. ALUMNAE RELATIONS MANAGER Jennifer Grafton EVENTS AND DATABASE RECORDS Elinor Hatt

Mary Berry Lemon Victoria Sa’s ndwich!

To mark the 140 th birthday of the GDST a number of celebratory eve taking place thro nts are ughout 2012-201 3. The GDST’s first Bake Off is one such event, designed talents of girls in to showcase the our schools. So baking we thought the specially-commiss opportunity to ioned cake recipe share a by Mar y Berr y – whole GDST com a GDST alumna munity was too – with the good to miss. The to our foundation Vict oria sponge hark , while the addition s back of lemon gives it a contemporary To discover mor twis t. e about the 140 th celebrations , go to ww w.gdst. net/140. Ingredients 225g (8 oz) but ter, softened or baking spread 225g (8 oz) cast 4 eggs

er sugar

course you can also beat by han d with a wooden spoon. Divide the mix ture evenly bet ween the tins and level out with the back of a spoon or plas tic spatula.

225g (8 oz) self-rais ing flour 3. Bake in the preheated oven for 2 level teaspoo about 25 minutes ns baking powder or until well rise n Finely grated zest and golden. The tops of the cake of 1 lemon s should spring bac Filling and top k when pressed ping lightly with a fing About 4 tablespo er. Leave the ons lemon curd cakes to cool in the tins for a few A little caster sug moments then ar run a blunt knif e around the edg 1. Lightly grease e of the tins to two deep 20 cm free (8 the sides of the inch) loose bot tom cakes. Turn the ed sandwich tins and line the base cakes out, then peel off the pap s with a circle of er non -stick baking and leave to coo l completely on parchment. Prea heat the oven to wire rack. 180C/160Fan/Gas 4. 2. Measure the 4.Choose the cake but ter or baking with the bes t spread, sugar, egg top, then put the s, flour, baking other cake top powder and lem downwards on on zest into a to a serving plat e. large bowl and Spread with the beat for about lemon curd, two minutes unt put the other cake il just blended. on top (top An elec tric mixer is upw ards ) and sprinkle with bes t for this , but dst .net/140 caster ww w.gof sugar to serve.

1 Lightly grease two deep 20 cm (8 inch) loose bottomed sandwich tins and line the bases with a circle of non-stick baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Fan/Gas 4. 2 Measure the butter or baking spread, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon zest into a large bowl and beat for about two minutes until just blended. An electric mixer is best for this, but of course you can also beat by hand with a wooden spoon. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and level out with the back of a spoon or plastic spatula. 3 Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until well risen and golden. The tops of the cakes should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for a few moments then run a blunt knife around the edge of the tins to free the sides of the cakes. Turn the cakes out, then peel off the paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. 4 Choose the cake with the best top, then put the other cake top downwards on to a serving plate. Spread with the lemon curd, put the other cake on top (top upwards) and sprinkle with caster sugar to serve.

This magazine is also available online at

Inside 3 5 6 8 12 14 15 16

GDST news Interview with Olympic silver medallist Hannah Mills 140th celebrations Alumnae memories Alumnae in science Building for the future Alumna of the Year interview Events calendar

Editor: Robert Fenner, Lyon Communications Design: FONDA Print: Wellington Press ©2013 GDST Alumnae Network Please recycle after use. The opinions of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the GDST. All reasonable attempts have been made to clear copyright before publication.

GDST in the national news GDST Chief Executive Helen Fraser’s speech at the GDST Annual Conference in June 2012 clearly struck a chord.

Her comments on educating students to make wise decisions in both their personal and professional lives led to coverage in the national papers including the Telegraph, Evening Standard and Daily Mail, as well as guest appearances on BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Channel 5 News and the Vanessa Feltz Show. W

Materials used are derived from sustainable managed forests Cover image: Picture courtesy of OnEdition

GDST News | Verve




Philanthropy at the heart of Young Leaders


Connect Online To network with other alumnae, share ideas, or seek new professional contacts, join our thriving LinkedIn Group. In 2012 we also launched industry- and professionfocused sub-groups, including marketing and communications, technology, finance, law and education. Come and join us!

Crest of a wave

You can also ‘like’ us on Facebook too: W

Last year saw a host of sporting achievements that made the nation proud – and the GDST was delighted to see so many of its alumnae in the thick of it. Hannah Mills (Howell’s School, Llandaff) was among them, and she won a silver medal in sailing at London 2012.

School Governor opportunities


his year, charities were the central focus for the 130 high-achieving Sixth Formers attending the GDST Young Leaders’ Conference in Bath. Keynote speakers included Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and director of the charity Kids Company, and students got the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership abilities in an ‘Apprentice’ style charity project developing a fundraising event for one of four national charities – Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Camfed, CLIC Sargent and Whizz Kidz. “Charity is a subject that’s close to the hearts of our pupils,” said Helen Fraser, GDST Chief Executive, “and leadership skills are essential to its success. The aim of this conference, and of this competition, is to inspire the participants, and to develop their leadership skills and qualities. It also demonstrates the extent to which those skills are transferable.” CLIC Sargent representative and Sutton High alumna Anna Penwarden said, “We were so impressed by the ideas and plans that the girls came up with. It was a hugely beneficial experience for us… and lots of fun too!” W

Help students by sharing your careers or university experiences


n 2012 we launched two online forums to allow students and alumnae to interact and share experiences of either their career or university. This initiative is still very new, and we need your help to reach “critical mass” and get enough contributions to make it a valuable resource for students. With the increase in tuition fees and the ever-increasing array of career opportunities, it’s more important than ever to make relevant information accessible to students making vital university and careers choices. Simply go to or to share your experiences. W


GDST News | Verve

Hannah Mills

The GDST is always on the lookout for potential new Members for its School Governing Boards (“SGBs”). Each GDST school has an SGB, whose Members support and challenge the Heads, as well as being vital links between the schools and their local communities. The SGBs ensure there is a local strategic and nonexecutive presence and oversight in each school. If you’d like to find out more about opportunities to become an SGB Member and about what the role involves, please contact W

Launch of the GDST School Council In October, student representatives from GDST Sixth Forms came together for the inaugural meeting of the first GDST Student Council. The Council has been formed to allow students to have a voice on top-level strategic development, and in their first meeting they contributed to discussions on the fundamental principles that underpin a good education and the importance of space for learning. Students were nominated by their school for this unique role, and will hold the post for a year and attend two meetings. Despite being the first time this cohort had met, they very quickly identified with one another and collaborated effectively making the discussions valuable and meaningful. W


annah is what many GDST pupils past and present call a ‘lifer’: she entered Howell’s School Llandaff at the age of six, and stayed all the way to 18. Along the way, she received not only an education, but the support and encouragement she needed to pursue her passion for sailing. “All my teachers were brilliant,” Hannah says. “They would help me plan when to do my homework if I was going to be away, or slightly extend the deadline if there was no way of fitting it in. If they knew what I was doing in good time, we could always plan a way of getting everything done. It made it a whole lot easier having a school that was behind you.” How did her school friends react to her sporting commitment? “My year group was pretty amazing,” she says. “I think it can be hard for girls to be sporty in school because it’s not looked upon as very cool, which is why I think a lot of girls stop. But it was never an issue for me. The girls were great and always supportive, even if they didn’t quite understand what I was doing!”

It was part of the bond that forms between them all. “Whatever we were doing,” Hannah says, “whether it was a sports match, drama or science experiment, we were always encouraged to work together, as that was the only way we would get the best results out of ourselves.” Needless to say, Hannah formed a similar bond with her Olympics team-mate, Saskia Clark. “Sas and I pretty much lived in each other’s pockets for 18 months,” she says, “and in the build up-to the Games, everything we did was the Olympics. Everything we thought was the Olympics. It was mad. Our days would be 8-8, we would go to the gym, sail, have some meetings, make sure our boat was working properly and that nothing could be better on it, then go to sleep ready for the next day. Obviously we had days off, but to be honest we wouldn’t really be able to concentrate on anything else anyway.” It all came to a head for Hannah and Saskia in the final race. Just one point behind the New Zealand team, and

with gold in their sights, they took what seemed the best line, and found themselves ahead – but then, at precisely the wrong moment, the wind changed. “That race was the worst of my life,” Hannah says. “Unfortunately, with hindsight we know what we should have done, but that’s life and sport. After the wind-shift, it was all over, and we couldn’t come worse than second anyway, because of our points position.” When the Games were over, Hannah revisited Howell’s as a medal-winner. “It was a brilliant day,” she says fondly. “It’s been the support of everyone, the British public, my friends and family, Howell’s School – the list goes on! It all made the Games an amazing experience, and when we were pretty low after losing the gold medal, it really picked us up and made us appreciate what we achieved. So thank you to everyone who got behind Team GB. It really was an incredible summer, and an incredible Games.” Hannah, it certainly was. W Feature | Hannah Mills | Verve



140th celebrations


! l u f er e h c e b o t ns o s Rea

Most people connected with the GDST will know by now that since June 2012, we at the Trust, together with our schools and academies, have been in celebration mode, marking our 140th anniversary.

From the germ of an idea in 1872 to the 24 schools and two academies that make up the GDST today, we have evolved and grown in accordance with, or even ahead of, the times.

Here are just some of the things we have done or will be doing:

Then & Now Exhibition A mobile exhibition touring the schools, featuring highlights from the history of the GDST and key events for women during the last 140 years.

Athletes’ Rally and Day of Dance

Short Film Competition

Students will be invited to create a short film. Entries will be judged by a panel of film experts, including some high-profile GDST alumnae.*

Creative Writing Prize

Find out more about all of our 140th events at

An opportunity for students to let flow their creative juices and showcase their outstanding writing skills.*

*This competition won’t be completed until after going to print.

The GDST has been distinguished by its egalitarian spirit and ethos, by its determination to encourage the development of the individual, by nurturing a sense of responsible citizenship, and by the breadth of its curriculum. The results seem to be not only a common bond among our alumnae, regardless of which school or even in which decade they attended, but also an irrepressible diversity and enthusiasm for a multitude of disciplines and subjects.

An energetic day in summer 2012, when girls from across the GDST demonstrated how many talented sportswomen and dancers there are in our schools.

Art Exhibition

GDST Bake Off

‘140 for 140’

Therefore it seemed fitting that to celebrate our 140th, rather than having just a ‘one-size-fits-all’ flagship event, there was rather a whole host of different activities throughout the year, showcasing the variety of talents and interests in the schools.

Women in Science Day

Hundreds of students competed to win a place in the final of the GDST Bake Off, where six students baked cupcakes and were judged by alumna and TV presenter Mel Giedroyc.

Over 2,000 GDST girls aged from 10 to 15 at 26 schools took part in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the world’s biggest multi-venue practical science lesson. Results of the attempt will be announced after going to print.

If you are personally involved in fundraising this year and would like to share it with us as part of ‘140 for 140’ we’d love to hear from you. Just email

Our celebrations will come to a close in June 2013, with an exhibition of art from across the GDST schools.

Last but not least, philanthropy has been at the heart of the GDST since its inception. All the schools actively participate in an array of fundraising initiatives and charitable events. To celebrate our 140th anniversary, we are highlighting 140 of the fantastic fundraising efforts undertaken by pupils, staff, parents, alumnae, supporters and stakeholders across the GDST throughout 2012/13.

Foreign Language Spelling Bee Fancy translating a word then spelling it in Spanish? Students across the GDST will compete to become a Foreign Language Spelling champion!*


Feature | 140th celebrations | Verve

Feature | 140th celebrations | Verve



School really b - “ oo ” ste gs n i h

idence” - “Ther onf e ’ 1 s 1 yc no m 10 1

innings grow beg gre e at bl m t u h






Alumnae Memories

Reeling in the years 4


To mark the GDST’s 140th anniversary, we asked former pupils from different generations to share some of their memories with us. Times have changed, and some practices and attitudes have moved on too; but as you’ll see, some things are constant. g as can’t” - “F thin ro m ch su




Not least among these are the degree to which alumnae feel their education has helped shape them as people – and the affection they retain for their old schools

Tanuvi Ethunandan

Sarah James (née Dye)

Sarah Williams (née Morgan)

Efchi Michalacopoulos

Portsmouth High – left 2012

Streatham Hill & Clapham High – left 1978

Bath High School – left 1982

Wimbledon High – left in 1996

My memories are very recent, as I’ve only just left. I was awarded three A*s and two As, which won me the place I wanted at Selwyn College, Cambridge, to read Economics. The university interviews were nerve-wracking, but my teachers gave me practice sessions, so that helped a lot. It helped build my confidence, but then again, my entire education has done that, too. I’m very fortunate to have been here. I’ve had an enriched and enlightened childhood. I’d been sceptical about the girls-only aspect of it, but it does relieve pressures, and I found it suited me very well. It was a good place to grow up. I’d like to think the quality of the time I had is something that can be used as a marker to bring all education to the same level, so everyone gets the same great start in life. It was the school, really, that got me interested in economics, and in its effect on people’s lives throughout history. It fascinates me. And I’ve always been quite mathematical. For instance, at the end of our GCSE year we went on a trip to the Himalayas, which we had to organise for ourselves. It was my responsibility to manage the budget before and during the trip, and it ran to thousands of pounds. My fondest memory? That would probably be our biology trip to Costa Rica. I shan’t forget seeing our teachers suspended, upside down, on a zip-line over the rainforest canopy. I’ll most definitely be keeping in touch with people. We learned in small groups, and I made some good friends as a result. I’ll stay in contact with my teachers, too. They were a big part of my school life. W

When I started, things were very formal. We had strict uniform regulations: there were straw hats in summer, velour hats in winter, shoes for outdoors and indoors, and we had to wear a particular brand of tennis shoes and own a particular make of tennis racket. I’d been to a state Junior school before, so this was a real change for me. But time passed, I went through the senior school, and a new head arrived on the scene. Rules were relaxed under her. The straw hats went, for instance – they’d been causing problems for us with local state school children on the way home. It was a time of change. Punk was coming in. When we were 15, friends of mine from school went to a Clash concert at the Marquee Club. They dyed their hair blue, but they were blonde and they used a vegetable dye, so it came out green instead. They were sent home until the colour came out. Teaching techniques were very different then. My 18-year-old son works in groups and has to give presentations. There’s an element of self-discovery to his education. By contrast, we had a blackboard and acetates on an overhead projector, and we had to copy things down without much discussion. Overall, though, I have to say my school really boosted my confidence. At my state Junior I’d been in a class of 42. At Streatham Hill & Clapham High, that went down to 28, so that helped. So did all the public speaking and debating. In fact, I’d say that’s the main gift GDST schools have to give. They have a huge self-esteem role to play, and the girls-only aspect of the education really helps with that. W


Feature | Alumnae Memories | Verve

Sarah attended Bath High School, which later merged with Royal School in 1998, to form The Royal High School, Bath

Bath High was a real culture shock for me. It was quite formal. They measured the height of our heels, the height of our skirts above the knee, and there were teacher patrols at lunchtime. Meetings with the head were daunting: she’d sit in a high chair, and place you in a low one. School made me very determined. In the early days, learning didn’t come as easily to me as to my sister, and I also had a period of illness, both of which were factors in my decision to go to a polytechnic. The school wasn’t really interested in me doing this, but it had given me the confidence to stand my ground, and I got a better degree than many of my peers. There was no real careers guidance for me, but my choice of business studies as a degree subject turned out very well. I found my niche in business consultancy. There’s a lesson there, I think: keep going, and you’ll find what’s right in the end. Perseverance, you see. It’s what I learned at school: “there’s no such thing as can’t.” My sister and I had assisted places. People don’t realise it’s not elitist at all, not in a class sense. There was a good mix of people, including those from less privileged backgrounds, all with aspirations, all contributing to society. I didn’t go to reunions for a long time. For academic reasons, I felt I’d be looked down upon by others who’d gone to university. But I realise now how important friends are. They’re a sort of overfamily. In fact, I now organise the reunions myself. Other people in your life come and go, but the people you knew at school are a constant. When I’m with them, it’s as though we all revert to our girlhoods. W

Wimbledon High was a warm, friendly and fun place. I had a happy time and I am glad to have gone to school there. I remember the new block and the sports hall being built in the late 80s. The heated indoor pool was bliss after the outdoor, solar-panelled pool many of us will recall. I expect I’m not alone in remembering some PE staff in fleeces calling from the edge that it was not cold! I had a very good education, but I didn’t decide on a career path until long after I left school. I would probably tell current pupils careers can evolve and be explored. They don’t have to be the result of a decision made in a careers advice session at 16. We had plenty of extra-curricular activities. My favourites were writing poems for the magazine and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award camping trips to Surrey. On one trip, a teacher accidently set fire to the grass with her meths-burning stove, and to our delight yelled something unprintable as she leapt backwards. I also visited an exWimbledonian in her 90s for most of my time in the Seniors. Some of her old school exercise books were found in a cupboard and given to me to return some 70 years later, so who knows what we ourselves may have left behind? What else do I remember? Green school birthday cake, rolled skirts, some people dying their hair purple when in the Upper IV, and writing on each other’s shirts on the last day in uniform. From the Sixth Form I remember the old common room with its squashy sofas, and The Hole, an especially horrible café. Happy days! W

Feature |Alumnae Memories | Verve








6 9

Alumnae Memories

v - “I’m ery fortu na te



” ce en id


Jacqueline Baker (née Thomas) Croydon High – left 1979 I was part of the first cohort to go through the new school complex, located in parkland outside central Croydon. It was clean, bright and airy, with a modern languages lab and fantastic sports facilities. We were very lucky. There was some flexibility on uniform. As long as it was broadly in line with guidelines – the colour and so forth – it didn’t matter if it was new, second-hand or home-made. Even then the Sixth Form could wear their own clothes (with the exception of jeans). Very recently business dress was introduced as the Sixth Form dress code, a vast improvement on the rather eclectic mix being worn, with a consequent increase in the girls’ sense of pride. My daughter left the school in 2009. Even though she only joined in Sixth Form (her decision, because of the current excellent breadth of academic A-level choices) she was elected a Prefect. It just goes to show the maturity of the girls who chose her: she wasn’t disregarded as an outsider. Academically, the school has always been strong, and later in life you realise it gives you confidence and a belief in your abilities. It gave me a “bolshiness”, I suppose. It was aspirational. It instilled in me a can-do attitude, and it’s done the same for my daughter. She’s become a go-getter and no longer waits for things to happen – she instigates them. Education has been a big part of my life. My grandmother was a teacher, I’ve been a school governor for 12 years, including over two years at Croydon High, and run my own business that supports headteacher recruitment, develops leadership capacity in schools, and trains candidates in interview technique. My confidence to work with senior personnel in education stemmed from my own schooling. Schools like the GDST’s have an important role to play. They’re there to set standards, to share best practices, to share facilities with other schools and with the communities they serve. Highly motivated pupils need a well-resourced and focussed environment in which to learn, and you don’t get that enough elsewhere. W


Career focus | Alumnae Memories | Verve

Katy Astley (née Joubert)

Mollie Kingham (née Bloomfield)

Dorothy Whittington (née Gardner)

Wimbledon High – left 1999

Ipswich High – left 1960

Oxford High – left in 1948

I’d been shy as a little girl, but at Wimbledon High, I was actively encouraged to be able. It made me feel more comfortable, and so my true, relaxed, confident personality came out. I loved school. It was the highlight of my life. My temperament was really suited to it. It taught me to measure myself by my own standards, and not in relation to others. I’d like to see schools like mine made more affordable across the board. Assisted places and so forth – they give real life chances to people. They’re even more important than shiny new facilities, really. People outside the system don’t always realise our schools aren’t only open to the wealthy. Many get there on merit, academically, musically or in sport, so it’s wrong to assume our schools are just for toffs. And it’s important that people are well-educated, and that they contribute to society. We ought to believe in a meritocracy. I have so many memories, but the stories we were told in kindergarten have really stayed with me. One was about a mayor who encouraged the townspeople to put their milk into the fountain in the town square, so it would flow with milk for everyone. Some people slipped in water instead, thinking no one would notice, with sad results. The moral of the story was that one person is really important, every single one of us. We must all do our bit. I run my own fundraising consultancy now, matching charities to potential donors. I named it Excelsa. It’s from my school’s motto: Ex humilibus excelsa. From humble beginnings grow great things. I keep a picture of an oak tree by my desk. I hope I always stay

It was only in recent years I discovered how I came to be at Ipswich High. The head of our local Village School had recognised my potential, and recommended me. I started at the age of 8 and stayed through to 18. We lived 12 or 13 miles away and I had to rely on an infrequent bus service. Later, I was made a Trust Scholar. I was very proud. It was worth only around £4, but it was an honour and did buy a couple of books. School was rather strict and old-fashioned. I remember the fear and trepidation of being called to the head’s office. We even had to go and see her and account for ourselves when we’d been off sick. Most of the teachers were rather tweedy, but one of my maths teachers really stood out. She was younger, and very fashionable, in high heels. I loved maths more than anything, but the school’s approach to A-level choices was quite rigid. I’d wanted to do history and French with it, but the timetable wouldn’t allow it. I was obliged to do physics and chemistry instead. In retrospect, though, the physics proved a big help at university. There’s still a place for the GDST model, and for two main reasons, in my view. First, single-sex education removes those male and female stereotypes. Girls like me could, and can, and did, do science and maths without being seen as geeky. And second, the classes are smaller. I would have drowned in a large comprehensive. And then, of course, there are the friendships. They can really endure. I was married late in life, and we celebrated our silver wedding only last year. Four friends from my school days were at that celebration. We’ve stayed in touch all that time. W

When I arrived, my uniform was beautiful. Immaculate. As the war progressed, and clothes were available only on coupons, it became less perfect, but hats were still de rigueur, and hair still had to be tied back. We had position girdles for posture, and you had to earn the right to wear one by not slouching. We had a very rounded education. Sixth Form teaching was amazingly liberal: for instance, in 1946 we went to a very early performance of Britten’s Rape of Lucretia as part of our music appreciation. We all had to read a political weekly and be prepared to discuss it. The school didn’t close during the war. Kensington girls were evacuated to us. We could be told apart by the colour of our knickers in gym classes, which were held in the hall. We ate in the library: there was no dining room. Oxford was very cosmopolitan then. There were soldiers from so many countries. I remember captive Italians in the backs of lorries, singing. Towards the end of the war, a group of dons’ daughters, evacuated to North America, returned, impressively sophisticated. Later, we met German PoWs for tea, and we’d go to dances with boys from Radley College – chaperoned, of course. You can always tell Oxford girls. They speak in a certain way. They’re very enthusiastic. They’re buzzing. They have a great ability to question things, to argue. It’s not entirely comfortable for our husbands! I’ve been asked if GDST schools still have a role to play. The answer is, absolutely. I was in a taxi recently. The taxi-driver told me that his daughter was at Oxford High, and thriving. He works so hard to keep her there. Schools like mine are more important than ever.W

true to the beliefs instilled in me at Wimbledon High. W

boosted really my c on f

een here” - “I ma eb de 11 v ha 10 so to 1

ool ch “S

e m

friends as a resu od lt” o g

Study | Alumnae Memories | Verve


1. ydr 00 79 og 4 en









2 8 18 32 18 8


Po tas










Alumnae in Science



Croydon High School – left 1987 Biophysical modeller, British Antarctic Survey



hen I finished my first degree I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I was offered the opportunity to do a research degree, which involved spending a couple of years in the USA. I found it really interesting and rewarding, and decided to go on to post-doctoral positions, which then led to the permanent academic position. Currently I am teaching mathematics in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics and leading the University’s nuclear structure physics research group. The gender balance hasn’t really changed in my field over many years. According to the Institute of Physics, around only 5% of physics professors are women, compared to 1% in the mid-90s. That said, I think it’s probably easier for women now, as they’re more accepted in scientific roles. I’d recommend it whole-heartedly. A research career is brilliant for anyone with an inquisitive mind. It’s great to be able to measure something that no one’s seen before, and then see if it can be explained by current models. I love the fun of discovery. I love being able to decide what experiments I want to do, writing the experimental proposals, doing the experiments and then analysing and interpreting the results. You really are in charge of the whole process. There’s also a lot of travelling involved, as there are no experimental facilities in the UK any more. Experiments are carried out in Germany, Finland, Romania, USA and Australia, and we have recently begun a collaboration with Japan. Schools can make such a difference in bringing women into STEM. I think they’re key. Many girls have decided against STEM subjects already in senior school, and then it’s too late to try and change their minds. W


Feature | Alumnae in Science | Verve

was introduced to oceanography and numerical modelling while studying for my MSc, and these subjects formed the basis of my PhD research project at the University of East Anglia. Since then I have been employed as a research scientist in the fields of physical oceanography, oceanographic modelling and biophysical modelling at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, and the British Antarctic Survey. My job involves developing and running a variety of computer models to investigate how the ocean physics (such as currents and water temperature) influences the marine ecosystem. For instance, I’m currently leading the modelling component of a project looking at the connectivity of isolated fish populations in the Scotia Sea (Southern Ocean), and how this may change with warming sea temperatures. As a senior scientist, I am expected to write grant proposals to obtain funding for research, and to manage any staff employed on those projects. It’s an interesting career, and I feel I’m doing research of value to society. As with all jobs, it has its dull moments, but I’ve had the opportunity to work on research ships, and to travel all over the world to present my research at scientific conferences. Since completing my PhD I have been employed in government research laboratories, and have found them to be extremely accommodating with regards to flexible working hours and maternity leave. As a result of these family friendly policies, there are more opportunities for women now than say 20 years ago, but even so, the proportion of women in top jobs is still quite low. In part this is due to women choosing to work part-time, or to take career breaks when their children are small, both of which are detrimental to career progression. Schools can influence the number of women in top science jobs by exposing girls to the wealth of different STEM careers available, and encouraging them to consider taking subjects at school that have traditionally been more male-dominated. Probably the most satisfying part of my job is the knowledge that I am contributing to our understanding of the marine environment, and of how we are affecting that environment through, for example, global warming and over-fishing. W

1. ydr 00 79 og 4 en



n sc ence





Central Newcastle High School – left 1979 Professor of physics at the University of Brighton

2 8 14 2

Brighton & Hove High School – left 1976 Headstart Director, Engineering Development Trust (EDT)


eadstart, the organisation I direct, provides an opportunity for those in Year 12 and interested in STEM subjects to spend up to a week at a UK university prior to making their UCAS application. Nearly 40 courses ran this year across the UK, and I’m responsible for managing the operations team, fundraising, programme development (e.g. a new course for Year 11 girls) and working with universities to grow the scheme. I love sharing my enthusiasm for engineering and helping young people to make very important decisions by providing them with a real experience of university. How did I get here? After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, I worked for several companies as a Project Engineer, gaining Chartered status. I then had a seven-year career break, doing a number of engineering and education voluntary activities, although my main achievements were my daughters Emily and Nairmi! I then returned to paid employment running Young Enterprise in Birmingham for five years and then joining EDT in 2000, initially running Year in Industry in the West Midlands, then other schemes across the Midlands. Three years ago I moved to the national role I now have. My interest in STEM started at school. I saw a careers leaflet in the Sixth Form, and the front cover was of a girl wearing a hard hat (it was from an oil company promoting chemical engineering). I saw that and thought, “That looks different – I’ll do that.” My GDST education was a massively important element in the path I took. There were no barriers to being good at maths and science, although all the others in my A-Level group were going to be doctors or vets. Girls still do better at STEM in single-sex schools. I would certainly recommend engineering to women. I have had a very varied and interesting life and career. Engineering has so many different strands and options that any preferences can be accommodated. It offers opportunities for travel – for instance, in my early career I worked on a contract in East Germany, when it was still communist. And with maths and science A-Levels you can have a really rewarding and fulfilling career in engineering – without the gory side of medicine! It’s becoming easier and more accepted, too. It’s also important to emphasise the role schools can have in encouraging girls to take this path. For instance, they should all be taking part in lots of EDT programmes. I’d encourage people to visit The other thing we need is a great, fictional TV series. Applications for Forensic Science shot up after CSI. Perhaps a successful and attractive engineer in Hollyoaks? Sometimes girls still need to be reasonably feisty and outgoing to persevere with a STEM career, but that generally isn’t a problem for GDST pupils! W

Portsmouth High School – left 1973 GDST Trustee CEO Marie Curie Cancer Care


qualified as a doctor in 1978, and after various training posts I became a consultant paediatric neurologist, first at Guy’s Hospital in London and then at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), where I had done research into metabolic inherited disorders, gaining an MSc and MD. After some time as medical director, I became CEO in 2001 and left last summer. Eleven years is a long time as CEO, and as there couldn’t be a better hospital than GOSH I decided to move into the third sector – which is why I am now at Marie Curie. I wanted to be a doctor from the age of five, really, probably because I saw our GP quite often as I had bad asthma. So it was all I ever considered. Of course, I stopped practising 12 years ago, but I was a clinician for 23 years. I felt I could make more difference to more children as CEO than staying as a clinician. In that role and at Marie Curie, I still use some of the skills I used as a doctor. I never felt there was any gender discrimination while I was doing research, or indeed throughout my whole career. But I didn’t want to become an academic, and I still think that is harder for women than men. You only have to look at the number of female professors in biomedical science to see that. I think it is the difficulty maintaining grant income and publications – which are the way academic success is measured – as well as having children. There are of course many notable exceptions, and also, excellence in academia isn’t easy for men either. I’ve only been in my current position a few months. I love doing and learning new things. Marie Curie was of course arguably one of the best female scientists ever, so it’s a real privilege to lead this organisation. I’d like to see more women in science in general, and in medicine in particular. Things are changing already: when I started medical school, I’d guess only one in five at the most of my year were women. Now over half of medical students are women. But schools can help increase the momentum, by providing the best possible teaching for sciences, providing opportunities for girls to see the importance of science, and supporting them during exams. That would enable more women to follow a career path like mine, it’s great the GDST sends so many girls to study medicine. I said it’s a privilege to lead Marie Curie Cancer Care, and so it is – but it’s also a real privilege being a doctor. And there are so many paths to follow, too. W Feature | Alumnae in Science | Verve





Alumna of the Year

Nottingham Girls’ High School

Building for the future

The woman behind the mask GDST women are known for setting themselves consistently high standards – and achieving them. Our Alumna of the Year 2012, Claire Bennett, chosen by you, excels in international fencing, yet also makes time for young people in underprivileged areas.

Notting Hill & Ealing High School: Foyer

With over two dozen schools, the Trust is responsible for managing a great deal of infrastructure. In addition to classrooms and offices, every school site has science labs, sports facilities, spaces for creative and performing arts, and much more besides.

Notting Hill & Ealing High School: Central garden

Zoe Smith, Director of Estates at the GDST, adds, “The Trust-wide capital investment plan is set to grow to the highest spend in its history, with a programme of highly transformational and visionary projects over the next five years.”

It’s not just a question of maintaining what’s accrued over the Trust’s 140-year history – it’s also important to ensure facilities meet the needs of pupils and staff now, and for generations to come…

A business case is made for each investment, either by the school itself, usually for enhancement of existing facilities, or by the Trust’s Estates Department for larger-scale maintenance projects. Once approved, it’s the Estates Department’s responsibility to deliver.

The investment programme of the GDST has been in place for as long as anyone can remember, and little wonder. Its role is not only vital, but growing in importance, and that’s why in recent years capital investment has come under the remit of either the Executive Board or the Council of Trustees, depending on the financial threshold.

One case in point is Notting Hill & Ealing High School (NHEHS), which is undergoing a large-scale transformational redevelopment to provide an underground sports hall, new multi-functional assembly hall, drama theatre and dance studio. The project is currently in progress and is due for completion in the spring of 2013.

The Trust takes not only a long view, but a holistic one. A master planning exercise prioritises investments across the Trust estate, but also in the context of each individual school, supporting its educational vision and responding to it strategically over one, three, and five-years-plus periods.

Another example, albeit at an earlier stage, is under way at Nottingham Girls’ High School. The project here is for a dualpurpose performing arts centre on the site of the old dining hall. The proposal needed not only to meet the needs of the school, but to be especially sympathetic to the

Nottingham Girls’ High School: Artist’s impression of the Performing Arts Centre entrance


Development | Building for the future | Verve

Notting Hill & Ealing High School: Night time

surrounding area: the site is situated in a conservation area adjoining the Nottingham Arboretum. Recognising this, the project aims to provide a flagship building with state of the art facilities in a highly flexible and sustainable design. The project has been approved in principle by the Council of the Trust, and fundraising is currently under way. Which brings us, of course, to an obvious question: how is the money for such significant projects found? Partly, it’s from funds accrued from school fees and from the Trust’s investments, but a substantial proportion comes in from philanthropic donations at school level, from alumnae, from governors, from families, from local businesses and the wider community surrounding the school. The level at which such generous donations take place is a testament to the vital role each school is clearly perceived to have had – and that it continues to have – in serving the educational needs of bright, ambitious young women. W

To find out more about supporting your school go to

When Claire Bennett was ten years old, she had her first fencing lesson at Sydenham High. Her coach Bill Wilson pushed back his mask, looked down at the little girl, and told her she had the potential to fence for Great Britain and compete in the World Championships and Olympic Games. Natural talent is a great gift, but Claire is the first to say it gives you no free rides. “I had to work and train really hard at it,” she says. “You need to be a self-starter and commit yourself 110%. You have to remain positive about yourself and your ability to win.” GDST schools pride themselves on nurturing that kind of self-belief, and Sydenham High is, and was, no exception. Claire says, “I had great sports teachers at school. One in particular, Miss Murray, was always very supportive and encouraging. She taught me never to sit on my success, and to persevere at all times.” It was an ethic that paid dividends: Claire has represented Great Britain in European and world championships since the age of 14, and while studying for her modern languages degree at Durham University she was British Universities fencing champion. Later, as captain of the England team, Claire won individual bronze and team gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Fencing Games, and narrowly missed out on a place in Team GB for London 2012. She is kept very busy. She trains for four or five hours every day, and has to be rigorous not just with the exercise itself, but with the recovery intervals. “You need to be strict with yourself and consciously rest your mind and body so you’re fresh for training the following morning,” she says.

“StreetGames allows me to get involved with people and projects at a grass roots level,” Claire says, “which is where I’ve always wanted to be. Sport can change a young person’s life for the better, and provide a talent pool for the future. I know the donation from the Alumna of the Year award will make a difference. I can’t wait to see what it does for our future projects.” The international competition calendar extends from February to October, and then there are the visits to training camps in France, Hungary, Germany and Poland. The British fencing team competes in Europe, Asia, Africa, pretty much everywhere. “In season,” Claire says, “I was travelling abroad for World Cup competitions almost every other weekend. We tend also to spend three weeks competing and touring Asia during the month of May. All the travelling can be quite rigorous, but we’re lucky to get to see the world. I’ve visited more than 35 countries since starting fencing.” In spite of her busy schedule, Claire makes time for a charity that means much to her. StreetGames provides sport to children in underprivileged areas with little or no regular access to it, and it’s asked her to be its ambassador. A great choice of person by them - and an equally great choice of award-winner by our readers. W For more information about StreetGames, please visit Alumnae | Claire Bennett | Verve


Events Calendar

Tour of Vintners’ Hall and London Livery Companies – London Friday 19 April, 10.30am. £20 The City of London Liveries are unique in number and diversity. We start at the spectacular Vintners’ Hall and will see some of the other 38 Livery Halls – many dating back to medieval times – on this tour of the narrow cobbled streets and alleys on the North Bank of the Thames, the London nobody knows. It’s an area of huddled streets, loaded with history that continually resurges in its higgledy-piggledy lanes. W

Guided tour of Parham Park Gardens with lunch – Sussex Thursday 9 May, 11am. £21 Set in the backdrop of West Sussex’s rolling countryside, Parham Park House and Gardens have a rich history. Over the last 20 years Parham’s Head Gardeners have worked to plant and re-establish the seven acres of exquisite pleasure grounds and the beautiful walled garden, which date from the 18th century. Enjoy a tour with the current Head Gardener before stopping for lunch in the Tudor kitchen. W

Tour of Chelsea Physic Garden – London Friday 21 June, midday. £8 Situated in the heart of London, Chelsea Physic Garden has a unique living collection of 5,000 edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants. It is London’s oldest botanic garden, founded in 1673 and became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world. We will receive a detailed private guided tour with one of the garden’s experts. W

Exclusive Shopping Evening at Hobbs – Covent Garden, London Thursday 27 June, 6.30pm. £5 Enjoy an exclusive after-hours shopping evening at the glamorous Hobbs store in Covent Garden. We will have our own private shopping area and personal stylist but also free rein to explore the entire store. There will be 20% discount off full-price items, a goodie-bag with purchases and the chance to win £100 Hobbs vouchers. Come along and be pampered with fizz, nibbles and beautiful clothing. The £5 entrance fee will be donated to a charity chosen by Hobbs and GDST. W

Private viewing of The Wernher Collection at Ranger’s House – London Thursday 26 September, 2pm. £9 or £4 English Heritage members Join us for a private visit to the Ranger’s House, an elegant Georgian villa in Greenwich Park which houses The Wernher Collection, comprising remarkable works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912). Within the panelled interiors of this graceful mansion is a sumptuous arrangement of silver and jewels, paintings (including Dutch Old Masters) and porcelain. W

Be Inspired!

Private tour of Newstead Abbey with lunch – Nottinghamshire Thursday 18 July, 11.30am. £15 Founded as a monastic house in the twelfth century, but most famous as home to the poet Byron, Newstead Abbey has a rich and fascinating history spanning the centuries. From the medieval cloisters, to original letters from Byron to the more recent Victorian furniture, there is much on offer. We will have a private guided tour with one of the curators, followed by lunch in the Abbey’s café. W Tour of Little Moreton Hall – Cheshire Thursday 15 August, 11.30am. £7 Little Moreton Hall is the iconic black and white Tudor House. Dating back to 1504, it was built by the Moreton family as an ostentatious show of wealth, and its richness and beauty is still as evident today, even if engineers examining in the 1990s couldn’t understand how it was still standing! Hear about the house’s many inhabitants and original features in our guided tour. W

Can You Escape Social Media? – Covent Garden, London Thursday 25 April, 6.30pm. £5 Whether you’re a regular on Twitter and LinkedIn or absolutely terrified by social networking and wouldn’t know a hash tag from a re-tweet, you can’t escape the fact that individuals and businesses are using social media sites more and more. As an individual, can you escape social media, and should you want to? When can you use it to your professional advantage, and what are key dos and don’ts? Hear from and question experienced social media experts on this hot topic. Please note: this event is not a training session on using social media sites, but an interactive discussion on ways of exploiting them. W Work the Room – Covent Garden, London Thursday 3 October, 6.30pm. £7 Is networking one of your least favourite things, and do you find it hard to know what to say? Networking isn’t for everyone, but we all do it socially and professionally. This small, intimate event will create a friendly and easy environment to go back to networking basics, from finding what you’re comfortable talking about, through to how to exit less enjoyable conversations! To help make it all a little less daunting, the group size will be small and there will be delicious canapés and drinks. W

How to book The quickest and easiest way to book is online, via your account on the website Alternatively, complete your booking requirements and return along with full payment with your personal update form. Please provide your mobile number and email address when you book. There is no deadline for booking events, but tickets sell out fast so we recommend making your booking as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. We hope you will be able to join us on one or more of our events.

VERVE 2012-13  

Verve 2012-13: magazine of the GDST Alumnae Network

VERVE 2012-13  

Verve 2012-13: magazine of the GDST Alumnae Network