education

Pensioner finally passes his maths GCSE at the age of 92


Derek said he decided to sit the exam as a challenge (Picture: Judy Czylok / SWNS)

A 92-year-old has become the oldest person in Britain to ever sit a GCSE exam.

Derek Skipper, from Orwell in Cambridgeshire, said it doesn’t matter ‘two hoots’ what his results are but he is hoping for a level four or five when grades are released in August.

The former RAF radar engineer decided to sit the GCSE to challenge himself to with a modern exam paper and to outdo a family friend who struggled to pass the test.

The process has seen Derek not only master new maths skills but also YouTube, which he had to use in order to complete the course which was run by The Cam Academy Trust.

Derek sat his exam at Comberton Village College near Cambridge alongside a gym full of 16-year-olds.

The married father-of-two said: ‘I didn’t even notice they were there. I just had my head down and got on with it.

‘I’m obviously a bit slower and I found that I switched off at times. My brain just stopped working for a minute or two.

‘I did run out of time, but I had a go at most of the questions, except the ones I thought looked complicated which I’d have gone back to if I’d had time.

Derek, a former radar engineer during the Korean War, sat his exam alongside a gym full of 16-year-olds (Picture: Judy Czylok / SWNS)

‘Checking through was out of the question.

‘It doesn’t matter two hoots about the result, but I’d like to get a four or five.

‘We have a friend who’s 19 now and she couldn’t get her head around Maths and failed GCSE three times. I couldn’t help her, so I decided to try to beat her.

‘I thought it couldn’t be that difficult and it’s kept me occupied.’

As a teenager, Derek cycled three miles a day through bombed-out East London to school.

He missed just one day at school during World War Two – when a bomb blew his front door onto his bicycle leaving him with a flat tyre.

Derek left school with five School Certificates – the precursor to O Levels and the equivalent to GCSEs – including Maths which was gained with the help of a slide rule and book of tables.

At 18 he signed up for the RAF to learn a trade and became a radar fitter, later serving in the Korean War.

Derek will find out how he did in the test in August (Picture: Judy Czylok / SWNS)

His 21st Century learning offered up to five hours of tuition a week over two sessions a week delivered Zoom and an exam that allowed the use of a calculator, something he really enjoyed.

‘I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot about using a calculator,’ he said.

‘I think I found it easier than a lot of other people on the course.

‘But there were still lots of things I’d either completely forgotten or we didn’t learn like Venn diagrams, data collection, frequency tables and mean, mode and range – we just did averages which I understand – and leaf and stem.’

Derek, who no longer drives due to poor eyesight and took his maths paper with the help of an NHS-supplied magnifying glass, said the ability to learn remotely had been key.

‘I’ve been introduced to YouTube. You just want to know anything and YouTube’s your boy. I watched a lot of tutorials,’ he said.

‘I wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been on Zoom. I’d never have driven in on a dark night.’

Shane Day, the course tutor said: ‘Derek was great, the best student in the class. He’s the first 92-year-old I’ve taught, the previous oldest was 74.’

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