Retired teacher, 98, receives honorary degree – BBC News

Image copyright Chris Perry
Image caption Freda Smith said receiving the degree was “an honour”

A 98-year-old has been given an honorary degree more than 70 years after she was unable to complete her teaching course when her money ran out.

Freda Smith, from Ipswich, was one of 2,100 recipients of the awards from the University of Roehampton.

Mrs Smith worked as a teacher for 44 years after leaving college two years into her degree as her parents could not afford to keep her there.

She said receiving the degree was “lovely” and “an honour”.

“I always wanted to be a school teacher,” said Mrs Smith, who started at college in 1936.

“In those days, teachers’ certificates took two years. But because I went to London, I wasn’t given any grants from Sheffield [where I lived], but my parents mortgaged their house to pay for me to go.”

A third year of study was required to get a Bachelor of Education degree, but Mrs Smith did not have the funds to complete that year.

Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Freda Smith worked as a teacher for 44 years, taking only 19 sick days in that time

Recipients were given the degrees during a ceremony at London Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall.

When she heard she was getting the degree, Mrs Smith said she “laughed a lot about it”.

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“I must admit, I do consider it to be an honour,” she said.

“When I apply for my next job, I shall be able to say Freda Smith, BEd (Bachelor of Education).”

Mrs Smith, who was deputy head at the then Whitehouse Infants School in Ipswich, and head at Sprites Infants School, said she was probably quite a “formidable” teacher.

“I had a voice like a foghorn, but the important thing was any raising of my voice was done when we were out on the field,” she said.

Prof Paul O’Prey, university vice-chancellor, said the event was “about recognising the hard work and dedication of the women and men who have made significant contributions to education and teaching across the world”.

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