A 101-year-old gym teacher whose classes were disrupted by WWII missiles has finally graduated 60 years after graduating.
Retired teachers Madge Brown and Sheila Gordon, 94, didn’t graduate while studying at Teacher Training College in the 1930s and ’40s but are now getting that all-important piece of paper.
Teachers then completed two or three-year courses, which were later replaced by the requirement for a college degree or postgraduate qualification.
When Madge and Sheila graduated from Nonington College of Physical Education in Kent, their courses were not recognized as the degree they are today.
Now the University of London is giving those who missed it an honorary Bachelor of Education degree to thank them for decades of service.
The university was the awarding body of the college, which closed in 1986.
Madge, 101, who now lives on the Isle of Wight, began her three-year course in 1938 but had to interrupt it for a year after the start of the war to work as a nurse.
She graduated in 1942 – although one of her hockey lessons was disrupted by a V-2 rocket that flew overhead and exploded nearby.
Sheila, also from the Isle of Wight, attended college between 1946 and 1949 after the war was over.
Madge said it took a long time.
She added: “I went to Nonington to train as a physical education teacher and at the age of 101 I can honestly say that the three years at Nonington were the happiest days of my life.
“I’m quite old to graduate at 101 but it was the Nonington education that kept me going.
“That’s all the physical exercises I’ve done and still do my whole life — I still swim every week.
“I’m very grateful for that, but it took a long time.
“When I left college they always said it should be a decent degree because of the hard work we put in.
“Why they never got the physical education diploma I don’t know because it was very intense – we dissected people at university, cut up bodies to teach gymnastics.
“The lessons were a great advantage. I think that gives you confidence and the teaching profession does something to you – it makes you more confident in everything you do. I loved every minute of it.
“Enjoy life to the fullest at any age and never stop exercising – and move as much as possible even after 100, because it’s worth it.”
During the war, Nonington College was evacuated to Avoncroft and then to Grafton Manor, both in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.
Madge took a year off to work as a nurse during the move.
In her early teaching years during the war, she recalls teaching a hockey lesson and hearing a V2 rocket fly overhead.
She blew her whistle and everyone fell to the ground and after the explosion she blew her whistle again and everyone jumped up and continued with the lesson.
Both Madge and Sheila were presented with their degrees on February 22 by Professor Mary Stiasny, Pro-Vice Chancellor.
Sheila said: “I became a teacher because Nonington College has always fascinated me.
“We had family living nearby, so I saw it quite a lot and I was like, ‘I wonder what’s going on there.’
“I was just coming back from evacuation when I first saw it and I thought what a good idea – none of the horrible parts of the war, they were fun games.
“I loved teaching people how to win and lose – I think it’s very difficult even today.
“Team games were really my thing. I liked it when people were able to lose and take it.
“I think if you can take the beating it will serve you well going forward. It was quite a task to get some people who couldn’t lose to enjoy it!
‘As I was [at Nonington College] We didn’t talk about the teaching certificates – it was about whether the war was over and whether it would start again and whether we should get everything we could out of life.
“The certificates really didn’t make much of a difference, I wasn’t expecting to get a brilliant certificate anyway – but if I could just go ahead and have fun games and pass on the fact that games are enjoyable and it’s not about fighting, I do.” think I would have enjoyed it just as much.’
The University of London is working to grant honorary degrees of Bachelor of Education to holders of teaching qualifications from now defunct London area teaching colleges where the University was the awarding authority.
Of the 26 former teaching colleges in London, all but seven have merged with other institutions, with Nonington College of Physical Education being one of the exceptions.
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/03/12/pe-teacher-101-finally-given-degree-more-than-60-years-after-graduating-18428449/ Gym teacher, 101, received his degree more than 60 years after graduating