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Grandmother becomes one of United Kingdom’s oldest students after enrolling at Kingston University

James Giles

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An 80-year-old grandmother who believes you’re never too old to learn something new is about to embark on a new chapter at Kingston University.

Retired businesswoman Hilary Chalkly has been passionate about writing for decades, but couldn’t believe it when she was accepted on to the MA Creative Writing course at Kingston University. Now she can’t wait to get started. “I know people who hit their late seventies and eighties and give you the impression they’re sitting waiting to die,” Hilary said. “I want people of my generation to realise there’s a whole life to continue living. It’s never too late to learn.”

Hilary, who has three children and two grandchildren, left school at the age of 15 with just one O-level in English because she was very ill as a child and had to finish her education after her father died. The sprightly octogenarian has had many careers over the years – including running a country music nightclub with her late husband, Chris – but when she retired from a cleaning job about six years ago she started to slow down a bit.

“I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two daughters and they said: ‘Mum, you’ve always led an active life, now you’re vegetating’. For about five years I hadn’t done very much, so they put the local paper in front of me with the evening courses and I chose creative writing.”

Hilary, of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, had enjoyed writing since she was in her thirties but joining an evening class re-ignited her passion and enabled her to meet like-minded people. She has since penned Through the Manor Gate – a romantic novel inspired by her grandparent’s historic manor house, where she used to spend her summers. Now in the process of writing a sequel, she hopes to get both published.

After doing several evening classes, one of Hilary’s classmates suggested doing an MA course. She applied to Kingston University and was accepted on to the MA Creative Writing course starting this term, making her one of the oldest postgraduate students in the United Kingdom. “I applied tongue in cheek and I couldn’t believe it when I got the acceptance letter,” she said. “My husband Syd said, ‘You can come back down from the ceiling now’.

“The great sense of achievement does an awful lot for you. If you have an MA you’ll have more opportunities to join different associations, to give talks and to really encourage other people. I hope I’ll inspire others.”

Associate Professor Dr Alison Baverstock said Kingston University believed strongly in life-long learning. “Learning enriches your life at whatever stage you decide to get involved,” she added. “Mature students bring a life experience to their cohort which is invaluable. They always tend to be committed and add a real energy to the learning environment.

“People taking masters are no longer automatically coming from degree courses. Many people take longer before deciding what to do – although not normally as long as this.”

James Giles is the Editor of the Kingston Enquirer, covering local news and events in Kingston, New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington.

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Stop cuts to schools and special needs children

James Giles

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The Council last night (7th February) passed the ‘SEND Transformation Plan’, despite local residents making clear that they had not been properly consulted.

The plans, which include raiding a potential £5 million from the budgets of mainstream schools, were put out to consultation over the Christmas Holidays, which resulted in a response rate of less than 2% of those with special needs children.

SEND Family Voices, a group who until recently worked with the Council on special needs matters, have described the plans as ‘fantasy’, saying: “The risk of legal challenge is now high; the risk of Tribunal rates going through the roof is also now extremely high. The Plan is unachievable & the savings suggested are completely fabricated.”

If 100 residents sign the ‘call in’ below, the decision is sent to Scrutiny Panel for an investigation.

Please sign to ensure that our schools and special needs children get the education they deserve. We demand better for SEND children.

CALL IN: SEND TRANSFORMATION

We, the undersigned, call in all recommendations from the 'SEND Transformation Plan' from the Childrens and Adults Care and Education Committee for review at Scrutiny Panel for the following reasons:

- Councillors were misled by officers who presented the item, who claimed the consultation was sent to all SEND parents, school governors, publicised on the website and via social media, which is gross distortion of the facts.
- The consultation was not published on Kingston Council's consultation portal until 3rd January, leaving less than three weeks for the public to reply through this forum.
- The 'easy read' consultation was not published until after most schools had broken up.
- The consultation did not meet government guidelines on good consultation.
- Out of Borough schools which have Kingston SEND pupils attending were not consulted on the proposals
- SEND partners and parents were not consulted before the plan was published
- The consultation only had 96 responses. There are 4,000+ CYP with SEND in Kingston - at best, the response rate was 2% and in reality, lower, which suggests there was a major flaw with the way in which consultation was carried out, leaving the Council open to legal challenge.
- The committee wilfully held the authority's constitution in contempt by agreeing to the sending the Written Statement of Action to Ofsted a mere two working days after the committee, despite the constitution being incredibly clear that a decision cannot be fully implemented until expiration of a call-in period.
- The risk of legal challenge is now high; the risk of Tribunal rates going through the roof is also now extremely high.
- The Plan is unachievable & the savings suggested are completely fabricated.

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