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Is this 98-year-old from Ipswich Britain's oldest graduate?

Freda Smith from Ipswich has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Roehampton for her services to education. 

Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

Freda Smith from Ipswich has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Roehampton for her services to education. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

A 98-year-old from Ipswich could break records when she collects her honorary degree from a top London university.

Freda Smith, from Ipswich, is to receive an honorary degree from the University of Roehampton for her services to education today. 

Picture: ASHLEY PICKERINGFreda Smith, from Ipswich, is to receive an honorary degree from the University of Roehampton for her services to education today. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

A 98-year-old from Ipswich could break records tomorrow as she collects her honorary degree from a top London university.

Freda Smith – who worked as a teacher for 44 years and only took 19 sick days – could become Britain’s oldest graduate at a special ceremony at the University of Roehampton tomorrow afternoon.

The former student, who was unable to study for a traditional three-year degree because her parents could not afford to pay, will join thousands of alumni in London Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall.

Mrs Smith was headteacher at Sprites Infant School from 1965 until 1982 when she retired. 

Mrs Smith is pictured here during her time at Sprites with some of the pupils. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERINGMrs Smith was headteacher at Sprites Infant School from 1965 until 1982 when she retired. Mrs Smith is pictured here during her time at Sprites with some of the pupils. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

She is due to be recognised for earning a Certificate in Education, a teaching qualification given out by colleges at the university until 1981.

Freda, who worked as a headteacher at Sprites Infant School in Ipswich from 1965 to 1982, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity.

“I would have loved to have done a three year degree at college but my parents had mortgaged everything they had to be able to afford for me to go for two years, and I never got a chance to go later because of the war.

Freda Smith from Ipswich who has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Roehampton for her services to education. 

Picture: ASHLEY PICKERINGFreda Smith from Ipswich who has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Roehampton for her services to education. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

“I have many fond memories of my time at Southlands.

She added: “It’s absolutely wonderful to celebrate a degree like this at my age.”

The 98-year-old, who retired after a long career at schools in Ipswich, London and Sheffield in 1982, will be presented with her degree by special guest – Tracy Beaker author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – and the university’s chancellor.

Freda Smith on the day she retired from Sprites Primary School with some of the pupils she taughtFreda Smith on the day she retired from Sprites Primary School with some of the pupils she taught

By attending the ceremony, Freda will become one of the oldest British people to graduate.

Bertie Gladwin, who left school aged 14, graduated with a degree in military intelligence aged 91 back in 2012.

The collective age of former students attending tomorrow’s ceremony is around 160,000 years, university bosses said.

Freda Smith at her home in Ipswich with her daughter Zoe Story. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERINGFreda Smith at her home in Ipswich with her daughter Zoe Story. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

Vice chancellor Professor Paul O’Prey CBE said: “This event is about recognising the hard work and dedication of the women and men who have made significant contributions to education and teaching across the world.

“Our graduates played a huge role in the revolution that took place in British schools during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and have together educated millions of children.

“Teaching is a great and important profession.

Freda Smith and pupils at Sprites Primary School before she retired in 1982Freda Smith and pupils at Sprites Primary School before she retired in 1982

He added: “It is a great responsibility, full of challenges but also full of reward.”

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