Peter Cook: TBSHS 1970-2014
7th February 2017
It is with great sadness that the school heard this week of the death of former colleague Peter Cook.
Peter was an inspiring teacher, in the English Department at The Bishop’s Stortford High School between 1970 – 2009. After retirement in 2009, Peter came back as a part-time employee taking One-2-One sessions, small groups and individual English or literacy lessons until 2014.
He started work as an English classroom teacher in 1970 under then Headmaster Ron Davies (1964-1980). In total he worked under three Head teachers. Along the way he took several roles including Second in Department and fulfilled the role of Head of Sixth Form at a time when the sixth form had only 32 pupils, helping that section of the school to grow to the 300+ strong unit it is today. For many years, Peter organised Christmas trips for the Sixth Form to a London show, which were very popular with students and staff alike.
Under Headmaster Ian Shaw (1980-1998), he managed the First IX Cricket which in turn led to his deep commitment to the Jobbers Wood project. Following his interest, under Headteacher Andrew Goulding (1999-2013), he was a vital force in helping develop our amazing sports facility at Jobbers Wood, from a field, into a sports ground.
He was a very good cricketer and a very good footballer.
In the mid-1980s he took a sabbatical for a year and went to Cambridge to take a degree.
He regularly told his pupils about how he was evacuated at the age of three during the war (WW2), and had the most wonderful mellifluous voice when reading stories, text or verse which held classes captivated.
Current Subject Leader for English Nick Patterson, remembers Peter as being outspoken, a valuable, ‘critical friend’ and sounding board for the benefit of the school but an excellent English teacher, who taught Nick a lot; “He was always on the side of the pupils, and during the holidays would put himself out to ensure they got the right grade. He wouldn’t allow them to under-achieve and would chase them up during the holidays to make sure they did the work required. He cared a great deal and those kinds of things are important.”
Everyone who knew Peter remembers him doing his newspaper crossword every morning in the staffroom.
Students and colleagues alike remember him as someone to learn from and respect.
Subject Leader for Business, Frank Beran remembers Peter fondly; “I have lots of fond memories of Pete in school and out. He was a very good friend of Jackie Farrell-Shaw. He hosted the best parties. He was very proud of his son. I think he had a variety of jobs before teaching, one of which included selling encyclopaedias something he found challenging when he recognised the cost to his customers!
He had a wonderful personality which gave him the confidence and assertiveness teachers need, but he also knew how to get the most out of the least and most able students.
The image I have of him in the classroom and the staffroom is with his newspaper at hand for those moments when the students were working and he needed to escape. Not Ofsted approved, but I think a lot of his students really appreciated his honesty and integrity and no nonsense attitude. He was always willing to listen and help out especially if managers were being particularly difficult or unhelpful. Old school, real gentleman.”
Former pupil and now Radio 1 DJ, Greg James heard the news on Friday and got in touch immediately, “What a wonderful man. Mr Cook made me realise how brilliant it was to read and write. Mr Cook taught great storytelling and was the teacher we wanted to impress”
School Librarian, Helen Fletcher says, “Peter used to go about the school, pom-pomming classical music as he went, on his daily quest for the library copy of the Times (mainly for the crossword). Woe betide anyone who got to it first!
He loved bringing classes of students to the library in their private reading lessons, where his love for books was infectious. He would put his feet up & read himself, once he’d got them all settled with a book, and you wouldn’t hear a peep out of any of them. Sometimes he would teach a lesson in the library, regardless of the silence rule, and if he read aloud, everyone would be spellbound, even if they weren’t part of his class!”
Assistant Head Jonathan Griffiths remembers walking quickly past Peter in the Tee Corridor. “He reminded me that life wasn’t a sprint; it was a marathon. A nice moment that I will never forget.”
Nick Patterson, has many memories of Peter. He says “Back in the days when English coursework was all-important in exam grades, when we were moderating coursework, the whole English department went to Peter’s house. It was an oasis of civilization – he knew how to host.”
His funeral was held on Monday 20th February at 4:45pm at Harlow Crematorium.