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Man, 92, becomes oldest person to take GCSE maths exam in UK


Former RAF radar engineer, 92, becomes oldest person to take GCSE maths exam in UK because he wanted to ‘challenge’ himself after taking YouTube course

  • Derek Skipper, 92, has become the oldest person to ever take a GCSE exam
  • The retiree, from Orwell, hopes for a level four or five on results day
  • He signed up for the exam to challenge himself and complete a modern exam assignment
  • Dad of two used YouTube for the first time to complete the course

A cheerful retiree is the oldest person in Britain to ever take a GCSE exam – at the advanced age of 92.

Derek Skipper, who hails from Orwell, Cambridge, is hoping for a level four or five, the highest available on the free adult education course, when he gets his results back in August.

But he said the result doesn’t matter much because he signed up to challenge himself for a modern exam.

And he learned more than just math after first using YouTube to complete the course taught by The Cam Academy Trust.

Derek Skipper, from Orwell, Cambridge, is the oldest person in Britain to ever take a GCSE exam – at age 92

Derek, a former radar engineer during the Korean War, took his final exams at Comberton Village College near Cambridge, next to 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 kept going.

“Obviously I’m a bit slower and I found myself disengaging every now and then. My brain just stopped working for a minute or two.

“I was out of time, but I tried most of the questions, except the ones I thought looked complicated and would have gone back to if I’d had the time.


Exams are taking place in the UK this year for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic.

Grades are awarded using external marking, but examination boards will be more lenient in defining the boundaries between different grades.

Boards of Examiners will look at 2019 and teacher grade ratings in 2021, and will be somewhere in between the two.

The exam results are expected to be higher than in 2019, but not as high as last year.

Results are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

This year, students from certain GCSEs have been given fewer subjects to learn and are allowed to use supporting materials such as math formula sheets.

The GCSE results will be released on August 25.

source: gov.uk

‘Looking through was out of the question. It doesn’t matter what the result is, but I’d like to get a 4 or 5.

“We have a friend who she is now 19 and she couldn’t get her head around math and she failed her final exam three times. I couldn’t help her, so I decided to beat her.

“I thought it couldn’t be that hard and it kept me busy.”

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

During World War II, he missed just one day at school — when a bomb blew his front door on his bicycle wheel, leaving him with a flat tire.

He obtained five school certificates – the precursor to O-Levels and the equivalent of GCSEs – including Mathematics which was achieved using a slide rule and a book of tables.

And after graduating from school, he enlisted in the RAF at the age of 18 to learn a trade and became a radar fitter.

But his 21st century learning process offered up to five hours of classes per week for two sessions per week, with Zoom and an exam that allowed for the use of a calculator.

Derek has stopped driving due to poor eyesight and took his math paper using a magnifying glass supplied by the NHS.

He added: “I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about using a calculator. I think I found it easier than many other people on the course.

“But there were still a lot of things that I either completely forgot, or we didn’t learn anything like Venn diagrams, data collection, frequency tables and mean, mode and range – we only did averages that I understand – and leaf and stem.

“And I was introduced to YouTube. You just want to know everything and YouTube is your boy. I have watched many tutorials.

“If it hadn’t been on Zoom, I wouldn’t have done it. I would never have driven in on a dark night.’

Tutor Shane Day said, “Derek was amazing, the best student in the class. He is the first 92 year old I have taught, the previous oldest was 74.”


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