Cambridgeshire man, 92, becomes oldest person in Britain to sit GCSE thanks to Zoom and YouTube

  • Derek Skipper told ITN's Sejal Karia how he passed his maths GCSE

You're never too old to learn, they say - and that's certainly the case for Derek Skipper, who at the age of 92 has just sat his maths GCSE exam, making him the oldest person in Britain to do so.

Mr Skipper, a former RAF radar engineer in the Korean War, where he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM), decided to go back to learning as a challenge - discovering Zoom and YouTube in the process.

"Other people try crosswords and that doesn't turn me on very much," he said.

"So I thought I'd try to have a go and improve my mind. People did tell me I was a bit daft."

The grandfather from Orwell, near Cambridge, signed up for a free adult education course run by The Cam Academy Trust at Comberton Village College.

It involved five hours of tuition a week on Zoom and he had 100% attendance.

Derek Skipper used a NHS magnifying glass to help him read the GCSE maths text books. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Course tutor Shane Day 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."

Mr Skipper then took his exam in a school hall full of 16-year-olds.

He told ITV News that the paper was easy to begin with, but then got a bit tricky.

"There seem to be blind minutes where you look at a question and nothing happens and your brain doesn't work it out at all, then you come back to it and think 'hang on a minute - I've got to answer this question," he said.

Mr Skipper still owns the slide rule he used back in 1947 for his exams. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The last time the 92-year-old sat a maths exam was 75 years ago, when he used his trusty slide rule, which he admitted gave him the upper hand when it came to trigonometry.

"Because I could never remember sine, cosine and tangent - you weren't allowed to take the formula in, of course - I was able to open up this slide rule and I wrote in sin, cos and tan and when I closed it nobody could see.

"So I did cheat a bit in 1947 and since that time, I've now realised it's probably best to learn it.

"There was no cheating in this exam I can promise you."

Mr Skipper was hoping to achieve a level four or five on the maths foundation paper. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mr Skipper, sat the GCSE maths foundation paper, but said he wished he could have taken the higher one, which was not an option on the adult education programme.

The nonagenarian said he had been getting to grips with using technology and had even discovered YouTube.

"You just want to know anything and YouTube’s your boy. I watched a lot of tutorials," he added.

On taking the GCSE, Mr Skipper said: “I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot about using a calculator.

"What else are you going to do with your life?

"Do you just want to die off? You may as well enjoy it."

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