Fairlawn Primary School in Montpelier is saying farewell to its founding headteacher, Julie Molesworth, this summer.
Julie was appointed early in 2015 to help set up the new primary school to meet the need for places in the area.
The school opened in September of that year with a class of 30 and grew to a school of 260 children aged four to 11.
The first pupils had to move within the former Fairfield Grammar School premises three times in their initial year because of work to adapt the Grade II listed building, which they were sharing temporarily with children from The Dolphin School.
The group grew with the school, helping establish its reputation as a happy and successful place to learn. They left for secondary last summer after notching up very strong results in Fairlawn’s first Key Stage 2 SATs, including 96 per cent in reading.
“It was quite emotional when they went off,” said Julie. “We always say our first families were our pioneers. They signed up for a school that did not yet exist and they helped us develop our community.”
Julie, who trained and taught in state schools in Australia before working in two independent schools in the UK, introduced a curriculum at Fairlawn that focused on STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. The school’s results are consistently above Bristol and national averages for outcomes at all age groups but the emphasis is on developing the whole child rather than just on the academic side, with forest school, outdoor play, creativity and curiosity to the fore.
“I have always wanted a holistic approach, even though that was not the prevailing attitude eight years ago,” said Julie. “Things have changed since the pandemic, with more schools prioritising the wellbeing of children and staff.
“I have been fortunate to be able to build the staff team here and create a supportive and consistent environment.
“Starting a new school is hard work – there is a lot to do and only you to do it – but it does give you the opportunity to put in place what you think is going to work. You create the ethos and culture and staff buy in to it. You bring people along with you.”
Fairlawn is at the heart of its community, regularly welcoming families and neighbours into the school. It opened with the aim of taking up to 420 pupils but because of a drop in the numbers of children in the area it has now cut its annual intake from 60 to 30.
This means it will become an even tighter-knit community, drawing from families living in the streets surrounding its site.
Julie said: “It is sad that we now have to restrict access, but it will mean the children who are here have lots of classroom and outdoor space. It will make it a much nicer experience overall.”
Julie, who has two grown-up children, is planning to start her retirement with a trip to Japan and Australia in the autumn.
The current head of school, Siobhan Lennox-Brown, who has been at the school for seven years, will become Fairlawn’s headteacher in September.
Lynn Robinson, chair of governors at Fairlawn School, which is part of Venturers Trust, said: “The success of our school over the past eight years is largely down to Julie’s dedication. Her warm and wise approach is appreciated by children, colleagues, parents and carers. Hundreds of families have cause to be grateful to her.
“Fairlawn is well set to continue to thrive thanks to the solid foundations she has put in place. We wish her a long and happy retirement.”