Fairlawn School, Montpelier: A Bishopston Mum Review


For parents currently considering potential primary schools for their children in the future, this local parent’s review of Fairlawn School may be useful.

Fairlawn School is a new primary school situated in Montpelier and is part of the Colston’s Girls’ School Trust, a Bristol-based multi-academy trust which seeks to provide outstanding education for its pupils.

By 2021 Fairlawn School will have capacity for 420 pupils with priority given to children who live closest to the school.

Please read the review below to find out more about the school.

Was Fairlawn School your first choice and, if so, why?

Yes, even though I have several good and outstanding schools in easy walking of my home, I chose Fairlawn as I wanted my daughter to join this new and growing school in the heart of Montpelier.

As Fairlawn was a part of the successful CGST (Colston’s Girls’ School Trust) and had an enthusiastic and new staff team I felt reassured that it would be an excellent new school.

What qualities and advantages do you feel Fairlawn has over other schools?

As a newly established school there is a lovely sense of community. The school focus is on the holistic and emotional development of the children, which makes their wellbeing, happiness and attitude to learning a priority.

The teachers seem to focus on the individual needs of the children to bring the best out of each one. Fairlawn has an engaged and positive group of staff who are keen to build a fantastic new school environment for the children.

The school has been set up with a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Maths) specialism. ‘STEAM’ so far has taken the form of special visits (e.g. from Airbus to build paper aeroplanes) and fun experiments.

There is a dedicated ‘STEAM’ room which can be used as a Science Tech & Engineering and Art lab/space and this will probably see more use as the children get older.

There is also a strong focus on Forest School, with lots of opportunity for the children to visit St Werburgh’s farm and Boiling Wells forest school for outdoor learning.

The children have weekly Spanish lessons which begin in Reception from a fantastic CGS Spanish teacher.

What (if any) are weaknesses of this school?

As a newly refurbished school, the playgrounds are still being developed. The plans for outdoor play equipment are good and will enhance the school. Not all the outdoor play structures are in place yet, although the Reception children already have an excellent free-flow playground built by Touchwood play.

There is still work to be done on greening the site as it has a hard landscaped play area. More trees, planters and plants are planned by the school in collaboration with a ‘greening’ group of parents.

What do you think of the school building, facilities and size of this school?

It is a beautiful old building in what was the old Victorian Fairfield secondary school site; it has just been renovated and modernised to accommodate the brand new intake of primary school children.

At the moment there are only two year groups of children at the site, one Year 1 class and one Reception class, so they have plenty of space for both indoor and outdoor learning, but even when the school has reached its full capacity there will be plenty of space.

Currently the main building on the Fairlawn site is being used by Dolphin School children while they wait for their new building in lower Montpelier.

The Dolphin classes are due to move in April 2017 and then the Fairlawn children will then have access to the full school and its two large halls and playgrounds as well as the standalone Reception and Year 1 building.

What do you think of the staff at Fairlawn Primary School?

All the staff are new and form a small, committed and cohesive team. From a parent perspective I believe that the right people are in exactly the right roles.

The head has a good vision for the school. She has an holistic view of the children’s growth at the school and is focussed on developing the children in the whole, emotionally and physically as well as academically.

The head has done a wonderful job in recruiting excellent teachers to the new school, and I would say that the teaching staff are my favourite aspect of the school.

The Fairlawn teachers are caring, enthusiastic and experienced and are very focussed on the individual needs of the children.

The teachers use positive behaviour management to get the best out of all the children there. The teaching assistants are caring and skilled and the children love them.

As part of the CGS Trust, Fairlawn also has access to best practice from specialist teachers and experts (e.g. Spanish and PE teachers, and SEND co-ordinator).

What are the school’s values?

Respect, Responsibility, Curiosity, Resilience.

As the children are still in Reception and Year 1 the focus so far has been on building confidence, enjoyment in learning and resilience to try again when they find things challenging.

I am amazed by how positive my daughter’s attitude to school is, and by how much she has learned both in terms of reading, writing, story telling and understanding the world, but also about how to learn and be resilient.

When the children started in Reception they created their own Fairlawn values which emphasised caring and respect for each other, everyone and their planet.

Do children receive homework, reading or tasks to do at home?

Reading books are brought home each week once the children have settled in to Reception and have begun phonics. And after the children had settled into year 1 some additional homework is set to enhance the topic they are working on in class (e.g. making a family tree).

In Year 1 there are also spelling books; these contain a few new words each week based around a phonic sound, a couple of ‘key words’ such as ‘be’ and ‘are’ and a ‘challenge’ word which connects to their special topic.

The head and teachers have told the Year 1 parents that the Fairlawn philosophy on homework is that it should be connected to and enhance the learning in the classroom.

The year 1 children have also been given access to a fantastic online reading scheme called ‘Bug Club’. This allows children to access a wide range of ‘real books’ online and motivates the children to learn through quizzes and collecting virtual rewards (e.g. a pet squirrel for their virtual treehouse).

This complements the paper reading books which are brought home each week.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The parent community have also added to the success of this new school as they are very committed to forming a friendly school community and helping the school by volunteering their skills.

Group camping trips and other social get-togethers happen frequently. Lots of parents say how lucky they feel to be part of the Fairlawn school community.

In the school’s first year the small but creative and committed PTA have organised brilliant summer and winter fairs for the children and wider community.

* * *

For information about other schools in/near Bishopston, Horfield, St Andrew’s and Ashley Down please visit https://bishopstonmum.com/pre-schoolsschools/primary-schools/.