A GROUP of friends decided to use mumpower to transform themselves from six despondent divorcees into the six delighted degrees.

Fed-up with staying at home or low paid jobs, the single mums decided to try and improve their lot by going back to college.

Yesterday all were rewarded for their efforts with impressive 2:1 degrees at the Bolton Institute awards ceremony.

And afterwards the mums, who have 12 children aged between six and 16 between them, decided to let their hair down after all their hard work by throwing a joint party. "When we thought about it we decided - 'yes, we've done something quite special'," explained Helen Phillips.

"At the beginning we thought about aiming for a first but decided it would put us under too much pressure. We all decided to go for a 2:1 and were really pleased to get it."

The mums - Sandra Skelly, 34, from Horwich, Marian Walker, 40, from Belmont, Helen Phillips 36, and Marie Henry, 35, from Radcliffe and Gillian Hall and Lorraine Walker, both aged 39 and from North Manchester - knew at least one other member of the group when they decided to take their degrees.

They all met up on Community Studies and Psychology courses at Bolton Institute and supported each other during three years of juggling studies, childcare and part-time jobs.

Helen explained: "None of us expected to get divorced but we all found ourselves at alone with the children and realised the jobs we were doing, or expected to go back to, meant we would not be able to afford to support our children.

"It's been quite difficult bringing up children, trying to study and making ends meet, particularly when you are surrounded by people about 20 years younger than you."

Now the women have been bitten by the learning bug and four are set to continue their studies so they can join the career ladder on a higher rung.

Helen and Sandra will take Masters degrees at UMIST and Liverpool University and Gill and Lorraine will study for a Diploma in Social Work at Manchester Metropolitan University. Marian and Marie are looking for full-time jobs.

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