Warship crew sail through GCSE exams at sea

HMS Dragon and HMS Monmouth in the Arabian Gulf. Inset, ET Andrew Coyle, Lt Helen Oliphant, and AB Daniel Smith.

HMS Dragon and HMS Monmouth in the Arabian Gulf. Inset, ET Andrew Coyle, Lt Helen Oliphant, and AB Daniel Smith.

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SITTING in an exam hall is stressful enough, but sailors on board one Portsmouth-based warship have been sitting their GCSEs in the middle of the Arabian Gulf.

Members of HMS Dragon’s crew are celebrating passes after sitting 16 GCSEs and one AS-level – despite the distractions of practice gunfire and high-speed ship manoeuvres.

They have studied for, and sat, their exams while at sea on operations in the Middle East.

Despite working in six-hour-on, six-hour-off watches, around 10 per cent of the crew managed to take tests in maths and English, as well as more specialist subjects such as accounting, physics, and economics.

Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineer) Andrew Coyle, 22, maintains some of the weapons systems on board HMS Dragon.

But on top of that, he sat his GCSE in English and achieved an A grade.

He said: ‘I’m really proud of achieving an A.

‘Hopefully it will help with my future promotion prospects, and I’m actually thinking about going on to study for A-level English now.

‘It’s been a great opportunity to use my spare time for something productive, and something I can see will be really important later on in life.

‘I’m very grateful to the officers who spent spare time teaching classes.’

Able Seaman (Communications Information Systems) Daniel Smith, 20, is the youngest sailor on board HMS Dragon. He sat a GCSE in history and achieved a C.

He said: ‘Taking exams while deployed is a good way to use up any spare time and occupy the mind.

‘Thanks to the Royal Navy it is free to sit a GCSE or A-level so it is definitely worth taking up as many as you can while you are in.’

HMS Dragon is on task in the Arabian Gulf and is due to hand over in September to HMS Montrose. She will return to Portsmouth in October.

Lieutenant Helen Oliphant, who received an A in geography, is an officer of the watch by day. But one of her secondary roles is to act as the ship’s education officer.

She said: ‘I was delighted with the take-up for study on board. So much so that I decided to try out a geography GCSE myself. I enjoyed my studies, but it was tough.

‘While you are on board it’s very busy. There’s always something happening around the ship. When we’re operational we work six hours on watch, six off, all day, every day.

‘I’m immensely impressed with everyone who put in that effort to get qualifications that in many cases will make a real difference to their futures.’

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