What A Marvellous Achievement

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A 92-year-old maths student has successfully attained a GCSE grade in the subject after studying over Zoom. 

Born a decade before World War Two started, Derek Skipper was determined to finally get a maths qualification and last sat a mathematics exam in 1946 - just a year after the War’s conclusion. 

When he last undertook an exam, Skipper said that he ‘just went through the motions and didn’t understand it’, yet it was always his mission to attain the elusive qualification and he never gave up hope.


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Wonderful Achievement

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the 92-year-old said of his achievement: ‘’I am very pleased indeed.’’

He added: ‘’Maths is a wonderful thing and it is very easy to say you are no good at it, so any opportunity to learn and embrace it, great.’’

Mr. Skipper lives in Orwell, Cambridgeshire, and used a slide rule in his last exam as he battled with poor eyesight. Sadly, the visual affliction has been with him for most of his life and he took the recent exam with the aid of a magnifying glass. He stated that his family thought he was ‘nuts’ for studying at his age, but Skipper didn’t let that discourage him from achieving his goal. 

The Cam Academy Trust, where Skipper completed the exam, confirmed that he was the oldest person to have ever studied a GCSE. Indeed, he would have been the age of a usual GCSE student in the mid-1940s, long before calculators, computers, and smartphones ever entered the human imagination. 

Never Give Up On Your Dreams

Stories like this remind us that it’s never too late to chase our dreams. In an age obsessed with youth, it’s easy to lose sight of life’s big picture and the pressure to tell ourselves that our window of opportunity has closed can be too great. However, Derek Skipper is a welcomed reminder that we can achieve anything we set our minds to and that there’s nothing wrong with taking the long route to get to our goals. 

When asked if he planned on taking any more exams, Skipper responded: ‘’No, I think that is probably my lot. I shall go out on a high.’’

I can’t imagine Skipper is going to be applying for any university places this year, but at least he proved his self-doubts wrong by finally becoming qualified in GCSE maths. It was eight decades in the making, but it was better late than never. 

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