Ed Compton meets Denise Cook and finds out how she has left behind a recipe for success.

Since Denise has taken decision to retire, it is fair to say many of us at the college have entered a state of denial: “It will never happen!”, staff and students have chanted in unison these past weeks.

I have grave news for her adoring fans: she really is.

After 32 years of dedicated service to Bottisham Village College, we must all now embrace a world without a truly wonderful colleague, without a fundamental support structure for our students and without her magnificent Friday muffins. However, one can only smile with admiration and regard when looking back at her incredible journey with us on Lode Road.

Arriving in 1992 as a catering assistant, Denise has witnessed many iterations of the college: her catering workspace of the early 90s is now The Urwin Room and she has worked under a myriad of Principals and Wardens. With her role evolving into becoming the technician in Food and Nutrition, Denise’s exceptional talents with young people were soon recognised, becoming a Teaching Assistant in 1999. Working with Malcolm Baker’s SEND team, Denise was well-suited to this role and supported individual students to overcome great barriers to succeed in education. Recounting one student, Denise told me that “He swore like a trooper” and used all sorts of naughty words”.  It says everything about Denise that she was also able to tell me the young person’s birthday and that she still sends him a card every year.

He’s now 26.

That sums up Denise: going above and beyond for the students in her care.

As assistant head of learning, Denise worked closely with Phil Burgess and between them they established what can only be described as a formidable duo: their end of year music videos are testament to their somewhat unique yet highly effective form of pastoral leadership. (I’m sure these will resurface in the coming weeks, Denise!)

One word could sum-up Denise’s character: authentic. Working with Denise is refreshing in a world of confusing noise and great educational change as Mrs Cook will tell you straight and cut to the chase: there is no froth. Her advice to students in her latter role as a pastoral lead is based on her own experiences of when she lost her dear father in 2007: “keep yourself busy and be positive”. This perhaps explains the endless list of activities she has involved herself in: The Leavers’ Ball, Celebration Day, Work Experience, Post-16 and residentials from Germany to Italy and from The Somme to The Netherlands. Denise really has lived-out the village college dream.

Reflecting on her time at the college, Denise cites the camaraderie, teamwork and collegiate spirit in the staff as being central to her enjoyment and the reason she has “loved it” here at the college. When speaking with her, she told me the admiration and high regard she has had for her many great mentors, all of whom she is still in contact with today.

Swathes of young people have managed to make a success of their time here at the college due to the care, compassion, and dedication of Denise: of that we are certain. In a brave new world where the teenage years are even more tempestuous, Denise’s guidance calms the waters and crushes the chaos: she helps students to make sense of the world and their place within it.

That’s a truly unique talent.

So, as you leave, Denise, we wish you all the very best for your retirement: keep in touch and if you ever need anyone to sample your baking, you know where we are!



+44 (0)1223 811250


Bottisham Village College, Lode Road, Bottisham, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB25 9DL

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