Geoff Cooksey (1925-2012)
Director of Stantonbury Campus 1971-1986
Milton Keynes is in mourning after Geoff Cooksey, director of Stantonbury Campus, died aged 86, in March 2012.
He was valued worldwide by organisers of educational events and conferences, as the original director of Stantonbury Campus, the first purpose-built comprehensive school for the new city of Milton Keynes, and now one of Britain’s largest schools.
He was appointed three years before Stantonbury Campus opened in 1974. He is quoted as saying:
“I got seconded to the Schools Curriculum Council for England and Wales which took me all over the world to learn about how things should be done in education. And I was back in Shirebrool to plough through all this deep, profound new knowledge when somebody in a pub said “Why don’t you apply for that job?” and that was Stantonbury.“
Geoff planned its structure and buildings from first principles. Working with a young Buckinghamshire education officer,Tim Brighouse (now Sir Tim, who subsequently reinvigorated Birmingham and London schools), Geoff designed state-of-the-art buildings focused on a magnificent resource area and theatre. Like some other secondary schools built at that time, Stantonbury espoused unashamedly progressive ideas.
He said: ‘It’s always struck me as rather strange that people called Stantonbury Campus radical. It always seemed to us as immensley normal. You actually treated children in the same way that you treat your own kids.’
‘And you treated parents in the same way that you treat your neighbours. And the school didn’t belong to you, it belonged to everybody. And if you’re out to get the best out of life, you could do it by co-operation. And if you wanted people to co-operate then you would use every skill, every trick, every guile to ensure people did co-operate.’
As a community school, it was carpeted throughout. The curriculum featured interdisciplinary work, the arts were central in school life, uniform was rejected and teachers and pupils were on first-name terms. Geoff’s work was extraordinary in that he laid a foundation and gained the trust of the community, ensuring that those founding principles survived.
In 1987 the Open University awarded him an honorary MA for services to education. He was a charismatic leader, mentoring many young teachers who later became headteachers themselves.
Taken from articles in the Guardian April 2012 and the exhibition Discover Milton Keynes