MBE for David Cook

When Vi Cook heard that her husband was being recommended for an award for services to education she was sworn to secrecy. And she kept the secret. ‘I didn’t even tell our daughters!’ she proudly declares. So although almost two years were to pass before the distinguished looking envelope fell through the letterbox, she guessed the contents of the letter that David was about to open. On the expensive cream bond used only for letters of national importance, the Secretary for Appointments declared … ‘The Prime Minister has asked me to inform you, in strict confidence, that he has it in mind to submit your name to the Queen ………’ That was last November and it wasn’t until a phone call from the press early in January that David learned that he was to receive the MBE ‘For Services to Education’.

It was 40 years ago, when he was Churchwarden of St. Michaels, that he was invited to be PCC appointed manager for the church school where both his daughters were pupils. With the village population already expanding there was soon the problem of overcrowding. David recalls how they dealt with this. ‘In 1963 a new word came into the vocabulary when ‘demountable’ classrooms were erected. They’re still there being used by the Youth Service’. Pupil numbers continued to increase and in 1965 the Vicarage Hall was being used as a classroom.

When the Barnard Road development took place it became obvious that new premises would be needed. So in 1967 two schools came into being – The County Infants and St. Michael’s Junior. The managers became responsible for the new Junior school which put a burden on the church to raise their portion of the building costs. ‘I headed up various Fund Raising activities which I found very rewarding. This was long before S.M.A.S.H was formed of course’. Overcrowding remained a problem during these years and a further five ‘demountable’ classrooms were installed as pupil numbers reached 400. Throughout these years it was normal for the Vicar to be the Chair of the governors. ‘Charles Cottey (later awarded the MBE) and I were Vice chairmen. When the government introduced major changes in 1986, managers became governors. Our duties increased considerably with the introduction of Local Management for schools. The National Curriculum was introduced and OFSTED inspections came into being with further involvement of the governors. In 1986, the Vicar felt that his time in the parish could be better spent undertaking pastoral duties so did not wish to be Chair. So I took on the task which I did not relinquish until September 2000. I found the task rewarding through the years especially when our first OFSTED inspection in 1997 brought such a good report.’

David’s service to the wider community does not stop here of course. For many years he ran the Darby and Joan club and is currently vice chairman of the Trustees of the Keene Hall Charity. He is presently recuperating from a recent operation to replace a knee joint.