A WOMAN who went to Oxford to train to become a teacher has finally graduated with a degree – more than four decades after she finished the course.

Frances Ann Johnson attended Wolsingham School before heading to Westminster College of Education, in Oxford, to train as a teacher.

After three years at Westminster, in 1973 she qualified with a Certificate in Education to teach geography in primary and secondary schools.

The 64-year-old, from Howden-le-Wear, said: “I took a three-year course, which concentrated on how to teach your chosen subject alongside various other minor subjects like primary maths, art, music, PE et cetra.

“It wasn’t until two years after I left, in 1980, that teaching became an all degree profession.

“Being a Methodist, I had chosen Westminster College, as it was a Methodist College, and I had intended, when I first went to college, to use my teaching qualifications to work in the Missionary field.

“This did not happen, as I went on to teach at Farringtons School, a Methodist girls’ boarding school in Chishlehurst, near Bromley, where I taught for five happy years, teaching many West African children, who were far away from their homes, so my ambition was partially achieved.”

Ms Johnson, who is passionate about cooking and baking, returned to County Durham to get a City in Guilds in catering and went on to teach home economics and catering in the South East.

After two years, she returned north for good, teaching many different subjects and ages as a supply teacher including at St John’s RC School and King James School, in Bishop Auckland.

She became a long-serving member of the teaching staff, and for five years Head of Boarding, at Polam Hall, Darlington, from which she retired.

Despite her long and varied teaching career, it was only recently that she was received a BA degree for studies at Oxford.

Oxford Brookes University, which now oversees Teacher Training at the old Westminster College, has now awarded BA degrees to about 150 people who studied the same amount of work as a bachelors degree from the 1950s to 70s but were not recognised.

She said: “I was thrilled to receive my degree certificate through the post.

“Although due to Covid restrictions, we had a Virtual Degree Ceremony a few weeks ago, now I can’t wait for next year when I can don a cap and gown at my graduation ceremony back at Oxford Brookes University.

“My only regret is that my parents are not here to see it.”

Ms Johnson is prominent in the West Durham Methodist Circuit, has served on various village committees and is a governor at Howden-le-Wear Primary School.