Valerie Simpson's bio
I was born during World War II in Dulwich, in South London, and educated at Sydenham High School GDST. After graduating with an honours degree in Chemistry from the University of London, I was employed by the British Pharmacopoeia Commission, where my job was to devise names for new drugs. I went into teaching when my two children were young and I held the post of Head of Chemistry at Old Palace School in Croydon. From there, I moved into education management as Vice Principal of Cambridge Tutors College, an International Sixth Form College also in Croydon. I served on their governing body and was also a governor at another school in the area, Croham Hurst School for Girls, where I chaired the Education Committee. Since my main employment was no longer specifically related to Chemistry, I kept up my interest in the subject by working freelance as Principal Moderator in A-level Chemistry for the examination board, Edexcel. I then became Principal Scrutineer for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, where I was responsible for monitoring the work of all the awarding bodies. As an Inspector for the British Accreditation Council, my work was to ensure that standards were maintained in colleges of further education. Now, although I am retired from full-time employment, I work freelance as an Education Consultant and, in this capacity, I have a regular contract with a Croydon school. In my role there as Sixth Form Counsellor, I advise young people on careers choices, helping them with applications to university, preparing them for interviews and providing academic mentoring – in particular, for those with autistic spectrum disorders.
I became interested in neurodiversity after my husband was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 50 and I have published a book about my life with him in an attempt to raise awareness of the challenges facing adults with autism. Two years ago, my husband and I moved from Croydon to Ferring, in West Sussex, where we are enjoying the autumn of our lives in the relative tranquility of a coastal village and I am serving as a Parish Councillor.
I was prompted to write my poem ‘When I am dead’ following the death of my own father last year at the age of 102. During his final years, his increasingly frailty and frequent bouts of illness caused him to regret having lived to such a great age and this is reflected in my poem, which I have written very much from a scientist’s viewpoint of the circle of life.