Bolton School Former Pupils

Nicola Grinstead

Nicola Grinstead (1989-1996)

I consider myself very lucky to have not just one, but two jobs that I care about passionately!

Professionally, I work for the NHS – after graduating in Geography from the University of Nottingham I joined the NHS Management Training Scheme; a two year graduate programme in which participants work on post-graduate qualifications whilst undertaking a series of management roles in different parts of the health care system. I discovered the scheme by accident at a careers day but was immediately attracted to the opportunity to fulfill a range of management roles in the NHS whilst supported by peer learning sets, mentors and access to a huge network – and it proved to be a great way to learn. During my time on the scheme, in addition to completing several placements in acute and primary care trusts in the UK, I worked in Soweto in South Africa for 4 months overseeing the implementation of a health education programme on HIV/AIDS.

I have since held a number of senior management posts in the NHS in London, with some great experiences; at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2012 I was working for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in central London and led our planning for the games period. Located on the doorstep of both Waterloo and London Bridge Stations we had a lot of planning to do to ensure the hospitals could function as normal; that our staff, patients and supplies could get into the hospital and that we were prepared for increased emergency attendances or a major incident. It was a time of great team work and in addition to all of our logistical planning, we took the opportunity to ensure all staff and patients had the opportunity to celebrate too – from watching the games, to trying a new sport, to fundraising for charity, it was a very busy six weeks!

In April 2016 I take up my new role as Deputy Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

I am also currently the Chair of the Board of Trustee’s for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts – the largest membership organisation in the world dedicated to the development of girls and young women, with 10 million members in 146 different countries. We exist to support each girl to fulfill her own potential.

Through non-formal education, peer education and learning-by-doing, we provide opportunities through which girls and young women build confidence, skills and experiences that are crucial to all aspects of their life. Globally we facilitate key partnerships aimed at helping us achieve these things; for example with Dove we have developed a global badge curriculum called ‘Free Being Me’, aimed at building body confidence in girls, and with UN Women we have a ‘Stop the Violence’ curriculum developed in direct response to girls telling us that violence is something they are worried about, and where they think girl guiding/scouting should be taking action.

In March 2016, 10 young women from different countries represented us at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, lobbying to ensure the voice of girls and young women is central to decision making and pushing governments to do more to achieve the new Global Goals. I have no doubt that girls and young women are a significant part of the solution and it is an absolute privilege to be part of a passionate team dedicated to ensuring more girls and young women have more opportunities to make change happen! 

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

My sister Sara Grinstead and I both attended Bolton School from the age of 11 through to 18.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?

I have so many happy memories from my time at Bolton School and one that stands out in particular is running a celebrity auction to raise money for Bolton Hospice. We had so much fun writing literally hundreds of letters, asking famous people to donate items we could auction! I remember waiting excitedly for the post each day and being totally thrilled when parcels started to arrive! We received a signed running vest from Commonwealth and Olympic Games medalist Liz McColgan, signed books from several politicians including Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock, signed ties from Noel Edmunds and Philip Schofield – the list went on! We were proud to raise £5000 in the auction. I still have the scrap book with all the letters we received!

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?

There were definitely some teachers who had a particularly significant impact on me – Mrs Foster, Dr Brown, Mrs Hutchings, Mrs Hughes and Miss Dickinson – truly inspiring women whose influence certainly extended beyond the immediate classroom – they inspired in me a desire to always do my best.

They were also great believers, supporters and encouragers of participation in education outside of the classroom – music, Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, community action – and I learned some of my most valuable lessons and important life skills through these opportunities.

They taught us that how you go about achieving something is just as important, if not more important, than the outcome you achieve – that teamwork, commitment, living your values, respecting and supporting others are important.

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?

It goes without saying that Bolton School provided an excellent academic education – but more importantly, Bolton School also created the environment in which you could grow in confidence and build ambition.

I learnt the important lesson that most things are possible if you put your mind to it and work hard – and that you should never be afraid to try.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

Two things!

Firstly, do something that you are passionate about. It’s really important for your own sense of value that you care about and are motivated by what you do – your ability to lead and inspire others is dependent on this too. Take every opportunity, stay true to your values and never hold back from asking for advice from people who inspire you.

Secondly, take on a volunteering role – employers are looking for people who can bring more than good academic achievements into the workplace. Volunteering provides an opportunity to learn crucial life skills, to take on additional experiences and responsibility, to commit to causes you care about. I have no doubt at all that my volunteering roles have supported my professional career significantly; it has taught me self-belief, the importance of standing up for what you believe in, personal resilience and perseverance – skills which directly transfer into the workplace. And as Chair of a voluntary sector organisation I also know just how valuable your time and skills are to the sector.

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?

I was lucky enough to benefit from an assisted place during my time at Bolton School and will be forever grateful for the opportunities this opened up to me. I am a passionate believer in the importance of access to opportunity – it’s so important for young people to have a wide range of experiences, to build aspirations, broaden horizons, to be inspired and to realize their potential in whatever form this may take. I wholeheartedly support the open access campaign and the philosophy underpinning it.

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