A single mother who had to leave school at 14 during a tumultuous period in the care system is set to graduate with a first-class degree.
Sarah Jayne Morris, 42, faced many challenges during her studies as a mature student, including the onset of deafness caused by long Covid and home schooling her daughter.
Following a challenging eight-years, she will graduate from Heriot-Watt University on Monday with a first-class Honours BSc in Biological Sciences with Cell and Molecular Biology.
Ms Morris now says she would like to work in a policy development role, helping to raise aspirations for care-experienced people.
‘Learning isn’t on your radar when you’re worrying about where you’re going to live’
“I want to help support people with lived experience to have equal opportunities in education,” she said.
“Like many other care experienced individuals, I left school at 14.
“When you’re worrying about where you’re going to live from one day to the next, what you’re learning just isn’t on your radar.”
Ms Morris moved 17 times over two years in her early teens, living in a variety of kinship care settings, foster homes, temporary foster homes and emergency foster homes.
She was also expelled from four schools.
“I was being placed in all these different places and you just get so far behind at school,” she explained.
“You’re treated differently because you’re behaving differently. You’re excluded rather than included – and it’s just a kind of vicious cycle.”
Battle with long Covid amid ‘mountainous’ task
When the Covid pandemic started, Ms Morris was committed to home schooling her daughter as well as keeping up with her own studies.
“I wanted to give my daughter a nourishing educational experience and not let her grades slip, as well as continuing with my degree work, and it just became a mountainous task.”
When she fell ill with long Covid complications – including permanent tinnitus in one ear – Ms Morris took a temporary suspension of studies.
“It was a very difficult time, because I’d essentially lost one of my senses, but Heriot-Watt were very supportive and made sure I knew the door was always open to return.”
Tracey Kerr, Widening Participation Manager in Heriot-Watt’s Widening Participation Team said: “We are so thrilled that Sarah Jayne is graduating today, and with a First-Class Honours, which is the highest honours degree you can achieve.
“She has worked incredibly hard and we are very proud of her, and of the fantastic work she has done for us as a widening participation student ambassador. We wish Sarah Jayne all the best in her future career.”