A former looked-after child follows her dream to become a social worker after graduating from the University of Chester.

Posted on 21st August 2018

Inspirational Cheryl Thompson credits her time as a student at the University of Chester with changing her life – and now she plans to use her new-found confidence and skills to change the world!

Cheryl Thompson
Cheryl Thompson


Growing-up in the care of a local authority, 25-year-old Cheryl struggled throughout her school life, leaving without any GCSEs. Now, thanks to the supportive learning environment at the University, she is about to graduate with a First Class Honours degree and ‘make a difference by being a great social worker’.

Cheryl explained: “Growing-up as a looked-after child had its challenges.

“It involved multiple moves from placement to placement, often with little or no notice – it meant my whole world was packed in bin bags.

“I met some amazing social workers, and some not so great ones. One day I realised I wanted to be that amazing social worker who could really empathise with young people in similar situations to mine.

“But school was difficult and when I left without any qualifications, I wasn’t ready for further study. I had just been given my own flat and that meant I needed to work to be able to live independently.” 

When she was 21, Cheryl knew it was time to pursue her dreams. She studied an access course, alongside doing her GCSEs and working every spare moment so that she could pay her rent.

But when Cheryl started on a BA Social Work course at Chester, she found it overwhelming. “I was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia, something that had been missed all the way through school, where I was just labelled a naughty child.”

Cheryl settled into her studies, appreciating the smaller, more personal classes on her course. The shorter lectures aided her intake of knowledge and the range of the University’s student support systems, including a personal academic tutor (PAT), proved invaluable in providing the extra encouragement she sometimes needed.

Cheryl said: “I had a few ups and downs while studying for my degree and it really helped that my PAT and a few other teachers were very approachable. I could go to them when things were particularly difficult.

“I flourished in the smaller classes and the environment felt more comfortable for me than other, bigger university sites. I really benefitted from the amazing resources in the library, especially, and attending refresher classes during reading week was helpful.”

Dr Gillian Buck, Lecturer in Social Work of the University of Chester, says that Chery’s life experiences made her determined to succeed.  She said: “Cheryl has been an inspiration to teach and learn from. She’s been a resilient student, obtaining high marks in her written work and excelling in her placements – a great role model for other young people.”

Cheryl plans to further her education and career by studying for a Master’s in Criminology or Mental Health, and then go on to do a PhD.

She added: “Having had many years of personal experience of social workers, I wanted to give something back and use that first-hand experience to make a difference to others.

“My qualification has enabled me to follow my dreams. Despite everything I’ve been through in life, I have gone on to finish university and gain my dream job in front line social work – and now I’m on a mission to help change the world.”