Strong reaction against comments of school head, Cathy Tooze

The letters below were printed in the Herts & Essex observer in recent weeks in reaction to the story entitled New head backs super school, published in the Herts and Essex Observer on 18 February 2010.

Letters published in the Herts and Essex Observer on 4 March 2010

We'll press for another solution over schools

On behalf of Old Thorley and Twyford Park Residents’ Association (OTTRA), I should like to reassure the many townspeople who last year were outraged to discover that Herts County Council had been giving strong encouragement to a consortium of property developers and two foundation schools intent on selling their premises for large-scale housing in order to fund a joint move of the two single sex schools to a shared campus in Thorley’s Green Belt for 3,000-plus students.

It is clear that Cathy Tooze, the new head of Herts and Essex High School, is quite unaware of the devastating impact that will result for Bishop’s Stortford and the rural parish of Thorley if the revised applications soon to be submitted are approved (New head backs super school, Herts and Essex Observer, Feb 18).

Nothing has changed to remove any of the reasons for objection. These two schools regularly attain high levels of achievement, as do other local schools. Where then is the “exceptional educational justification” that in planning terms can override Green Belt protection and can persuade town residents to seize the “real opportunity for change” that Mrs Tooze is calling for?

OTTRA reassures townspeople that it will continue to object to the schools’ move to Green Belt Thorley and will press for open discussion with parents and alternative lines of action to solve the shortage of school places for local children.

Sylvia McDonald, Chairman, Old Thorley and Twyford Park Residents’ Association.

I had to laugh...

I had to laugh when I read Cathy Tooze’s comments about the lack of playing fields at Herts and Essex High School. Did the governors forget to tell her during her interview that they sold them off a few years ago for housing development? Did they also keep from her the local resistance to building a so called ‘super-school’?

Please, Cathy, spend a bit more time in Bishop’s Stortford and Thorley talking to adults, parents, pupils and businesses and find out their preferences.

Then take this to your next governing body meeting and the local authority to show how you now understand and support the building of a mixed comprehensive school on land in Hadham Road reserved for this purpose and where housing developments have dictated need. I think you’ll find this will bring about much-needed support for your appointment.

Gill Ward, Thorley Hall Stables, Bishop’s Stortford

Letters published in the Herts and Essex Observer on 25 February 2019

New head must know: Tooze into one won't go

Your lead article New head backs super school (Observer, Feb 18) should ring alarm bells for every parent and student currently (and potentially) associated with Herts and Essex High School and Bishop’s Stortford High School and for the town’s residents in general.

It will be the exact opposite of a “super-school”. It will be educationally disastrous for the majority of its pupils. Any parent buying into this blatantly stupid proposal knows full well they will be materially contributing to an inferior education for their child(ren).

Herts and Essex High School’s new head, Cathy Tooze, who has yet to move to our town, has no understanding or appreciation of residents’ concerns. She is advocating a situation that is devoid of any educational value and merit, and urges parents to subscribe to this outrageous scheme. Just how thick-skinned is she? The plan has already been soundly rejected by residents and the parents of children at these schools.

Aside from the serious logistical issues surrounding the proposal for this new school – e.g. how some 3,000 people will access this precinct between 8am and 9am every weekday – Ms Tooze demonstrates a worrying degree of ignorance about what such a large school means to the children who will attend it. In such a large school most of the pupils will vanish into anonymity. We all know that smaller schools deliver better quality education and that the optimal size for a secondary school is 800-1,000 pupils.

While the reasons for previous Herts and Essex head Alison Garner’s departure were never clear, many people believe the failure of the initial proposal to amalgamate the two schools was a big knock to her ego and her personal agenda. In supporting this hare-brained idea, she lost the confidence of parents and the respect of residents, and rightly so. Now, it seems, we have someone who is equally insensitive to these concerns.

Perhaps Cathy Tooze will reconsider her appointment and allow someone who has a better understanding of not only the needs and desires of residents but what constitutes sound educational philosophy to take this post. If she does stay on, she has a big fight on her hands. I only hope that any dogged determination to cling to this idea will not mean that time she should be devoting to the care of her pupils will be absorbed in defending this stupid cause.

Grahame Palmer, Thorley Lane East, Thorley.

Hadham site is the answer  Top 

The head of Herts and Essex High School urges residents to support plans for a giant school campus in our Green Belt (“New head backs super school”, Observer, Feb 18). Yet only a few months ago, at meetings with parents of prospective new pupils, she appeared to play down the move and even the likelihood of it going ahead.

She also sought to allay parents’ concerns about potential disruption to our girls’ education both before and during the move. I now suspect she played that down, too. A brand new community school on the reserved Hadham Road site is the only way to avoid harmful disruption and create places exactly where they will be needed when the next phase of house-building within the bypass begins.

Allowing expansion of existing foundation schools, whose ability to admit pupils from Essex cannot be constrained, will not benefit children in Bishop’s Stortford, and using a Green Belt site on the opposite side of town will finally overwhelm our struggling road network.

Name and address supplied – Ed.

Opportunity for . . . chaos!  Top 

So, the new head of Herts and Essex High School thinks a new super-school planted in Green Belt land is something we residents of Bishop’s Stortford should embrace as a “real opportunity for change”.

Cathy Tooze presents a strong case for the further urbanisation and ruination of Stortford, one of the reasons being that girls at her school currently have a 10-minute walk to get to the athletics field. Poor dears, they must be absolutely worn out by the time they get there to engage in athletics.

That Ms Tooze lives 44 miles away in the Suffolk village of East Bergholt will, of course, have no bearing on her opinion. In fact, I’m sure that if she gets her wish she will happily move to Stortford to be nearer the super-school she craves and the chaos such a scheme will bring, and might even take out a mortgage on one of the 700 new homes forecast to replace the two long-established schools she wants destroyed. Pigs might also fly.

Paul Ailey, Meadowlands, Bishop’s Stortford.

Have parents been misled?  Top 

Cathy Tooze urges Bishop’s Stortford people to back the school move plans. Has no-one briefed her what happened the last time they were put forward? Why does she think Stortford people have changed their minds in the intervening year?

There was barely a mention of the school moving in her speech at the open day last year. Quite the contrary. She said the contrast of old buildings and new would be the ideal learning environment. Does this mean the new school would be less than ideal?

Parents of Year 7 pupils from this September have already made their school choices and a good few of them maybe made these choices assuming the whole school move fiasco had been laid to rest and maybe would have chosen another school for their daughters had they known their later years would have been disrupted by the move.

It’s time the local authorities knocked the scheme on the head and got on with planning the new, mixed secondary school the town will soon desperately need.

Mark Garner, Fairway, Bishop’s Stortford.

She needs to do her homework  Top 

Since Cathy Tooze is new to her role and to the area, it appears that she has little or no understanding of the feelings of the majority of the people in the town, who showed very clearly 18 months ago that they do not want a huge 3,000-pupil school campus in the Green Belt.

It was shown at the time that there are major flaws in the application, that limited consultation with local people has taken place, that the site is less than suitable due to major issues over traffic and access and that the larger the school the greater the impact on pupil behaviour and achievement.

Since the schools’ withdrawal of their application, no further consultation has taken place with those who will be majorly affected by this move and the destruction of Green Belt areas.

The issue of schools in the area being oversubscribed for places could be sorted easily if they made simple changes to their admissions policies. The fact that some parts of the Herts and Essex buildings may be in need of repair is not a viable reason for building on Green Belt land.

It is interesting to note that Ms Tooze does not live in the area and would therefore not be directly affected by the building of 700-plus houses on the two sites and the traffic, travel and pollution issues this will bring.

Clearly she is misinformed if she believes that building on the Green Belt is the only viable option for the town and she needs to do her homework.

Carol Hayward-Peel, Thorley.