Fairfield High School for Girls is one of the oldest all-girls schools in the country and has been a source of optimism for young women and their families in Manchester and Tameside for over 200 years. We have seen many changes. We owe our existence to the Moravian Church, a Protestant body originating in the 15th century, in what is now the Czech Republic. The Moravians believed it was their Christian duty to educate the young and ran schools for boys and girls.
In June 1796 Sister Mary Tyrrell opened a small girls’ boarding school – Moravian Girls’ Boarding School. With just 21 girls and 6 teachers it was the only girls’ school in a 25-mile radius of Manchester at this time, and the school can be regarded as a pioneer for female education, equality and emancipation. During the founding years, girls were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, literature, geography, French and German. The school opened in a time when many believed women should not receive an academic education.
By 1881 the school had moved to the former Sister’s House (now the Moravian College) and in 1903, Fairfield girls attended university for the first time. Three years later the school moved into the Brethren House from the Sister’s House. The Brethren House, rebuilt in 1871, is now part of the existing school and is home to the Modern Languages, English and Computer Science Faculties and the Headteacher’s and Deputy Headteacher’s offices.
After the First World War, in September 1919, the school became a Grammar School run by Lancashire Education Committee and was renamed ‘Fairfield High School for Girls’. The school was under the headship of Miss Edwards and the Moravian community donated furniture including chairs, an oak chest, bookcase, tables and two Grandfather clocks. One of the Grandfather clocks remains today and continues to keep time in the reception area.
The change to Fairfield High School for Girls meant the school building was modernised. Central heating and electric lights were installed in 1921. The new building, which currently houses the Library, Hall, Student Support and Drama Studio, was constructed in 1925 with the Assembly Hall completed in 1927. Parents and pupils organised fund-raising activities and provided £226 for the fine carved oak panelling still in place at the back of the stage. This was the cost of a small house in the 1920’s. By this time Fairfield was gaining a reputation for academic excellence, as the Honours Boards testify.
The school continued to be a beacon in Manchester and the surrounding area for female education and during the Speech Day of 1923, Mrs Simon, Mayoress of Manchester said to the pupils: “Don’t be prevented from following your star because of the fact that you are girls and not boys.”
The spirit behind this message was exemplified by one of Fairfield’s most successful ‘Old Girls’, Fanni Bogdanow. Born in Germany, Fanni escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938 as part of the ‘Kindertransport’. She attended Fairfield High School for Girls and went on to become a world-renowned scholar of French and Arthurian legend.
Fairfield High School for Girls changed to a Comprehensive School in 1980. We are now an 11-16 Academy, providing a high quality education for over 975 girls. Since then we have continued to go from strength to strength with exceptional examination results over the last three years and an outstanding quality of education being provided (Ofsted, 2022).
“We took a stand in 1796 so that every girl would have an equal high-level education, so that every girl could be successful, confident and make it in the world. We continue to do so today and will do into the future.”