Never leave a smouldering volcano and other tips from 1975 grad Len Parkyn

Len Parkyn graduated from the Brighton College of Education (one of our predecessor institutions) with a Certificate in Education in 1975. He then worked in educational special needs until his recent retirement. He continued to study throughout his career gaining a number of further qualifications including an Advanced Certification in Professional Studies in Education, a National Professional Qualification for Headship, a Masters of Philosophy and finally a Phd.

We caught up with Len to hear some of his stories about when he studied here….

Len recalled how different it was when he was at university with much stricter rules for students. Male and female students lived in different blocks and the female blocks were subject to inspection whilst the male dorms were not. Female students had to wear gloves in public and were not permitted to smoke between the two piers!

At the time, entertainment on campus was very much less technological! There was one television, one bar billiards table, one pinball machine and lots of camaraderie. He recalls a powerful and proactive sports federation. In December 1972, there was such heavy snow that Len and his fellow students were trapped on Falmer campus over the weekend. Len described how all the trains stopped and the roads were impassable. At this point, all the rules were relaxed and guests were allowed to spend the night in dorm rooms as they couldn’t get home to their own accommodation. The staff kept everything on campus open. The bar was open 24 hours a day and there were no trays left in the canteen because they had all been appropriated for use as sledges. The sports hall was constantly in use with lots of friendly competitions. He recalls how great this unexpected situation was for student cohesion.

Len met his wife when he was manning the Sports Federation stand for Fresher’s Fair. She walked into the room and he was immediately transfixed. They went on to date and then married in 1976 and are still together now.

Another highlight of his time at the university was booking Golden Earring to play a gig on campus. After they had confirmed, they went on to become a worldwide sensation with Radar Love. Luckily, they still honoured the gig! Len also recalls a fellow student who was studying to be a geography teacher. He made a model volcano and presented it in front of the class. He set it alight and nothing happened so the class took a break and went to get a cuppa. Two or three minutes later the fire alarms all went off and it turned out that the volcano had worked after all!!

Len mentioned three members of staff who changed his life.  Professor Hope was his personal teacher and hugely supportive of him. Len suffered a major illness while studying and needed neurosurgery and Professor Hope visited him and gave him gifts. Professor Messenger was Len’s education lecturer and kept a fatherly eye on him. Doctor Sohan was his supervisor and was gentle and sincere. He also gave him a big writing break as he asked him to contribute a chapter on special education for a book he was writing.

Len has these tips for education students now – motivate parents and work with other organisations to get what you need. In special education, your biggest asset is enthusiasm and passion. The biggest reward in special education is seeing people make progress. Finally, never leave a smouldering volcano unattended!

Len concluded by saying that Brighton has been a major influence on his professional and personal life. He believes that the city would not be such a great place without the influence of the university.

If you have a story you want to share, please do get in touch! We’d love to hear from you. Email alumni@brighton.ac.uk.

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