AT LAST: Laura Stoddart after her graduation at York St John University
AT LAST: Laura Stoddart after her graduation at York St John University

A RETIRED teacher from Barnard Castle has been awarded her degree almost 70 years after graduating.

Laura Stoddart left teacher training college in Ripon not long after the Second World War with little more than a note confirming she had successfully completed her training but went on to educate hundreds of dale children over the years.

The 89-year-old’s qualifications were formally recognised last month when she was awarded a bachelor degree in education during a ceremony at York St John University, in York.

Mrs Stoddart attended college after completing her schooling at Bedlington Grammar School in 1948 and remembers well the day she finished her studies.

She said: “On the last day we all had to line up in front of the principal’s office and we went in one by one and received a nice piece of paper with a report on it. We took that as our reference and that was it.”

Mrs Stoddart initially worked at Reid Street School, in Darlington, before accepting a post at the former secondary school on the Demesnes, in Barnard Castle, shortly after her marriage to husband, Allen.

She taught general science, English and maths, with biology as her main subject.

The former teacher said: “My classroom overlooked the Demesnes. I used to take them onto the Demesnes for PE. It was a very happy school, with Mr Bailey as headmaster.”

She added that while many people knew about the infant school that once existed near the Demesnes, few remember the secondary school that had been located there.

She said she was proud to be the first to take a group of children on a tour of Holland after the war while at the school.

The school grew rapidly and it was not long before the four classrooms became too small for the burgeoning student body and a new facility was built at Green Lane, where Mrs Stoddart continued to teach until her retirement.

News that she was entitled to a degree came through a pact that the student teachers made at Ripon several decades ago.

Mrs Stoddart said: “When we left college we were all sitting together at a table.

“We decided we would like to remain friends and keep in touch. One of the friends said if we all sent her a letter at Christmas she would compose a letter from all of us.

“Since then we all receive a letter in the New Year from our old pals and we have kept together forever.”

It was through this network that York St John University was able to contact her.

As for her graduation ceremony, Mrs Stoddart said: “It was absolutely wonderful. They did a wonderful job and we all felt so proud to be there. We were all so happy to see each other again.”