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Leadership Likes: Emma Pattison

Leadership Likes - Mrs Pattison

“If you can give a chance to people who are bright enough to do what they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, then it’s a really good thing; good for them, good for their families and good for society generally.”

 Janet Lymath, Alumna Croydon High School, Class of 1975

I spoke to pupils in assembly this week about Philanthropy at GDST, the very important practice of giving, either to enhance the opportunities available to pupils at GDST schools or to make those opportunities available to girls who otherwise would not be able to access them.

Although they are not identified as such, a significant number of our current pupils have been awarded coveted bursary places at Croydon High. They are among our top performers academically and in their co-curricular pursuits. We celebrate their achievements and talents in exactly the same way as we do with all our remarkable pupils and they, in turn, inspire us. May Her Character And Talents Inspire Others is our school motto after all.

The history of bursary places at Croydon High is linked to the assisted places scheme, established in UK by the Conservative government in 1980, to provide eligible children with free or subsidised places to fee-paying independent schools, based on their performance in the entrance examination. Between 1981 and 1997 an estimated 80,000 children participated in the scheme, costing a total of just over £800 million.

Since the abolition of assisted places by the Labour government when they came to power in 1997, a much smaller number of ‘bursary’ places are now funded from different sources. Some come from donations made by our committed alumnae body, members of the Croydon High Ivy Link, and some are thanks to donations from generous parents and local organisations with whom we work closely. You can read find out more about one such organisation here.

We also enjoy a link with the Rowdown Inspire to Aspire foundation, an incredible organisation run by the inspirational Gary Coy, which supports children in local disadvantaged areas to obtain places at independent and grammar schools.

Most of the funds, however, come from GDST itself who are committed to reaching as many girls as possible, according to their strategic aim since Cheryl Giovannoni took over as CEO of GDST in 2016 (at the same time as I joined Croydon High.)

I am sure I do not need to extol to our parents the virtues of a Croydon High education but for those of you interested in hearing from some of our successful alumnae who were themselves bursary award holders, do follow these links to read their stories. Natalie Orringe, Rowan Musgrave & Janet Lymath.  Their reflections on the opportunities made available to them through attending the school are testament to the quality of education your daughters all receive and, in every case, extend beyond the merely academic rigour or co-curricular opportunities.  Probably most importantly, they talk about the person they have become and their outlook on life.

Very often, we find that it is pupils such as these that go on to offer financial support to girls to enable them to attend Croydon High and in doing so, they contribute to a long culture of giving at the School. I am told that the very lectern from which I deliver Senior assemblies was donated by the Old Croydonians, as the alumnae organisation was then known, in 1921.

The Year 6 hub became the exciting, innovative and enjoyable working environment it is due to the kind donation of Margaret Walker, a former pupil and teacher at the school.

Alumnae donations also contributed towards our beautiful pavilion.

Perhaps the most significant donation we have ever received came as a complete surprise a few years ago from alumna Helen Margaret Holt. Amongst other things, the legacy she left to the school enabled us to embark upon our most ambitious building project for some time as we saw the tired, run down and uninspiring Junior Hall become The Holt, complete with a spacious entrance lobby and Enterprise Tech computing room. This project also saw the long-needed refurbishment of other parts of the building and reconfigured the way we move around the Junior School, ensuring wheelchair-user access to all parts of the building. What a transformative legacy she left behind her; we cannot begin to express our gratitude!

Larger gifts like these are usually made to the Croydon High Scholarship Trust who manage the legacy donations of a number of benefactors, in line with their wishes. Of particular note, is the Peggy Guillou fund which seeks to enhance the opportunities for budding musicians at the school. It is due to the legacy of this generous former Teacher of Music that we are able to fund the Year 3 strings programme, the Year 5 woodwind and brass programme and it also helped us create our stunning MAC Suite (it stands for Music and Art Creative Suite – but is also filled with Apple Mac stations) along with a fabulous recording studio, which pupils in Seniors have enjoyed using so much.

The contribution of our engaged and generous alumnae stretches far beyond the financial, of course. With their expertise, advice and support, so generously given, our alumnae enrich our community, our strategic purpose and our vision for the school’s future. Alumnae regularly feature in careers events, mentoring and coaching sessions, particularly in Sixth Form. They help with strategic planning – it was on advice from a group of alumnae in computer science and engineering that Enterprise Technology was born – and we look forward to engaging with them as we build our exciting strategic vision for the school over the next 10 years. We are just as grateful for this support, particularly from our younger alumnae who sat in the same chairs as our current pupils not so long ago and can talk and advise on the experience of younger professionals as they embark upon their careers.

We are always so grateful when members of our current parental body engage in the culture of giving at Croydon High. So many contribute time, energy and funds through our incredible PTA who, despite the restrictions which have curbed the majority of their usual activities, have nonetheless organised virtual events for our pupils and kept virtual coffee mornings going throughout the pandemic. We are so grateful to them for their input, their hard work and the importance they place upon supporting the whole school community as well as simply its fundraising efforts.

But these fundraising efforts have been transformative in so many respects. From the beautiful Boston Steinway that we enjoy in the Senior music department, to the new grand piano we have just purchased for The Holt, the PTA have long supported music making at the school. They were also responsible for the wonderful outdoor story circle with the Harry Potter chair, which sits outside the Junior School and indoor athletics equipment for Sport. The development of Ent Tech (Enterprise Technology – computing) at the school has also been hugely supported by our PTA, with equipment and gadgets to supplement the curriculum and increase enjoyment for pupils in both Juniors and Seniors. Later this year we will gratefully receive some new library furniture for the reimagination of our Junior Discovery Zone and some outdoor seating for all girls to enjoy our beautiful campus. How lucky we are!

Parents have donated to philanthropic efforts in other ways too. For example, year on year, Upper Sixth leavers kindly opt to contribute their deposits, paid upon entry to the school, to initiatives intended to enhance the experience of future pupils and we were so grateful to those of you who contributed towards the Covid Hardship fund last year; I know only too well how hugely beneficial this was for so many families affected by the pandemic.

As I sign off, I have just received an email – the timing is uncanny – informing me that another treasured alumna has left a legacy gift to the school with the intention of supporting bursary places for future Sixth Formers.

As Croydon High alumna, Natalie Orringe, Chief Marketing Officer at Access Intelligence Plc asserts, this, along with all donations to our philanthropy fund, will help us open the door to even more prospective pupils who want to join our school. They join us not just for the quality of academic progress, social development, co-curricular exposure and pastoral support on offer, but for the preparation it offers for the real world, for Every Girl, Every Day and the importance placed on the sort of inspiring adults our pupils become.

Being at a GDST school helped me by giving me the support to excel academically and in my sports. I recognise now that this gave me huge confidence that in turn had impact on almost every aspect of my life – not least of which is in my career. The GDST has become a real marker for quality education. I’m proud to be a part of the network and support the GDST as it expands. Funding schemes that make it possible for people from all financial backgrounds to attend fee paying schools are important because they result in private schools being more diverse and reflective of society than they might otherwise be. It leaves students with a more rounded view of the world”.

To read more about the inspiring women who have benefitted from GDST bursaries in the past please click here.

If you would like to join the numerous alumnae, parents and friends of Croydon High who support our philanthropy programme, please click here or contact Fran Cook, Director of External Relations, to find out more.

Emma Pattison


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