Interview with Catriona Mangham, Head Teacher of Fairfield High School in Horfield


Today on Bristol Mum is an interview with Catriona Mangham, head teacher of Fairfield High School.

Fairfield High School is a mixed-gender secondary school for students aged 11 – 16 in Horfield, Bristol. The school has gained local recognition recently due its recent academic progress and achievement, having gone from a grading of “Requires Improvement” to “Good with Outstanding Features” in its latest Ofsted report.

There has also been a recent changing of opinions of local parents due to the positive feedback about Fairfield High School from Next Step Horfield, a group of parents based around the Horfield Common area of Bristol who are campaigning for a positive change in local secondary school provision.

I hope you enjoy reading this interview.


How long have you been head teacher at Fairfield High?

I began in Sept 2009 and so this will be my sixth year. It has been lovely seeing a group of students through from Year 7 to Year 11 and how they have responded to the changes in the school.

Please can you tell me a little about your teaching background and experience?

I did not go into teaching straight away. After obtaining a degree in Theatre Studies and Film from Warwick University I had several interesting jobs including managing a rural public house and working in television.

I went back to do my PGCE in English and Drama and then worked in challenging schools in Essex. I returned to the West Country to take up a position of Deputy Headteacher at Royal Wootton Bassett School then became Head of School before coming to Fairfield.


What are the ethos and values of Fairfield High School?

Everyone is an individual and we are here to ensure that everyone achieves their best. We talk a lot about Team Fairfield and there is a great ethos about being a community helping each other to succeed. FHS is not just about academic success; it is about fostering abilities in all things from an interest in horticulture to engineering to sport.

What key areas of improvement did you identify as needed when you first became head teacher at Fairfield?

My main priority was to improve the achievement of students. Attainment is not a useful figure to look at as students from lower starting points will attain less – we need to accelerate progress and that was shown when we had the Best Value Added results in 2012 of any school in Bristol and the fifth best in the South West. Key to this is of course making sure you have the best teachers teaching the best lessons every day!


How has Fairfield developed since this time?

FHS has moved from being a school that was not well-regarded in the local community to one that more and more parents are putting as first choice. We have moved from a grading of Requires Improvement to being Good with many Outstanding Features.

The one thing for me though is the ethos – students smile and are happy being in school; they value each other and the opportunities they are being given. To quote Ofsted: ‘Students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding.

The school is extremely harmonious with students from a very wide range of backgrounds working well together and showing great respect for each other.’


Please tell me about the most recent Ofsted report for Fairfield.

Obviously we were delighted to have moved forward so quickly and that the report recognised the hard work of all in the community to make this a “good school”.

I was most proud of hearing what the students said to the inspectors about racism in the school – that there is none because everyone comes from such different backgrounds and they all respect each other as individuals.

It really showed us that our values were actually there in reality on daily basis. We were obviously also very happy that teaching and learning got graded as good with English obtaining an individual comment about being outstanding.

What links does Fairfield have with the local community and why are such links important?

We believe that schools should be centred in a community. In our June 2013 Ofsted inspection, it was noted that ‘The outstanding promotion of all aspects of students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development permeates the life of the school and creates an extremely harmonious and cohesive learning community where all thrive. Students are given a wide range of opportunities to broaden their understanding through visits and numerous activities within the community.’

We also have strong links with the local primary schools and work really closely with them to ensure the transition to Fairfield is as smooth as possible, by arranging outreach work, attending their events, offering year 6 students ‘golden tickets’ to experience Fairfield for the day, and running a Summer School and Transition Programme. That way, parents and students already feel connected before they join us.

We issue Fairfield News monthly and invite members of the community to sign up to receive them by email via our website or emailing


What are the key areas of improvement that you would like to work on in future at Fairfield and how do you plan to do this?

We obviously want to ensure all students are achieving their potential and also that we gain an outstanding rating at the next Ofsted inspection. This will mean a continued focus on teaching and learning and support for our students.

What are your long-term plans for Fairfield in the future?

We want to add a sixth form and look at linking with other good or outstanding primaries and secondaries to ensure we work together to improve outcomes for children within the city.


Anything else you would like to add?

This is such a diverse and exciting place to work. The atmosphere in the school is amazing and I feel very privileged to be Head of such a fantastic group of staff and students. People need to come and visit the school and then it will grab them too!

Please come to our Open Events to experience Fairfield for yourselves:

  • Autumn Open Evening 2014 – Thursday 25th September 6-9pm
  • Autumn Open Mornings 2014 – Thursday 2nd, Friday 3rd
  • Tuesday 7th & Wednesday 8th October 9.15-10.30am
  • Spring Open Evening 2015 – Wednesday 18th March 7-8.30pm
  • Spring Open Mornings 2015 – Tuesday 17th, Thursday 19th, Tuesday 24th, Thursday 26th March 9.15-10.30am

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If you would like to find out more about Fairfield High School, please visit the Fairfield High School website. You can also follow Fairfield High School on Twitter. You can also keep up to date with open days at Fairfield High School by looking at the Bristol Mum Events Calendar, plus read a local mum’s review of Fairfield High School.