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Staff Room

Admissions to HE Hairdressing

Interview with Samantha Trickey


Sam is one of 2 Teaching Improvement Managers at Gloucestershire College.  This is Sam’s 5th year in this role and she has been teaching since 1989. Sam started her career following a last minute decision to undertake a two year full time Hair Dressing qualification in 1985.  She then went straight on to the advanced course (equivalent to Level 3) finishing in 1988.  Immediately afterwards she opened her own business which she ran successfully for 10 years.  Sam began teaching part-time at both Gloucestershire and Royal Forest of Dean Colleges whilst still running her own business and after 7 years was given a full-time job at Gloucestershire College following the retirement of her mentor.   I asked Sam why she had decided to enter the teaching profession and she replied ‘having had successful trainees I knew I could succeed’.  Previous roles have included Advanced Practitioner and she currently supports initial teacher trainees through their practical teaching units of the Certificate in Education (Cert Ed).



Are there any particular issues relating to Hair and Beauty that makes progression to HE difficult?


Hair & Beauty is seen as less academically challenging and therefore it is seen as a choice for those learners who do not get good results at school.  They often have lower expectations of themselves and this is often echoed by their parents, teachers and even employers.  If an employer sees an application from someone who has taken ‘A’ levels then they will wonder why that student has chosen to apply to be a hairdresser when they have academic qualifications. For those taking Hair in particular there is no real progression route although employees can take a L5-6 qualification through L’Oreal known as the Master Colour Practitioner certificate although there is only 1 qualified to that level in the county that I know of.  For Beauty there is now a progression pathway through to a foundation degree in Spa and Salon Management.  The terminology ‘vocational’ versus ‘academic’ also plays a part in the feeling that those taking vocational pathways are in some ways less able than those opting for the academic route. The learners also do not see HE as a natural progression route from these courses.  Salon owners ask for L3 as a rule, so there is little motivation for learners to go onto L4 salon management.


Are there any success stories re progression to HE from that area that you know of?  If so, what in particular has encouraged those students to progress?


I would class myself and other Hair and Beauty lecturers as success stories as we have gained a HE qualification through undertaking teacher training.  For us the potential to teach and pass on our skills have encouraged us to undertake higher level qualifications.  The staff in Hair & Beauty currently undertaking the Certificate in Education and are, in the majority, ‘home grown’. In fact there are 2 members of staff who I actually trained, up to Level 3, now undertaking their Cert Ed.

Several foundation degree students have directly progressed onto Health & Complementary Therapies.  They have undertaken this as it is a unique direction marrying healthcare with complementary therapies.  This is similar to the Holistic therapies diploma but is a higher academic challenge.

One local employer in Hair has achieved the L’Oreal Master Colour Practitioner qualification at L5-7 and 2 of our learners have gone to work for her so we are hoping that will inspire them to think about progression.



What are the current trends in qualifications and progression in Hair & Beauty and do you feel that the economic downturn will affect this?


The college is still recruiting well for Hair & Beauty and FE is often a good place to be during the recession.  I firmly believe that however tight money is people still want to look and feel good, although it might mean people space their appointments out.  I haven’t heard of any salons closing at the moment.

In Beauty the college is recruiting for a Foundation degree in Spa and Salon Management which is only 12 hours a week so it fits in well with a job and although it costs over £3k employers, in some cases, are supporting their employees to achieve this qualification.

Progression routes in Hair are Levels 1-3 and a L4 in Salon Management.


Do you think that the new Diploma in Hair & Beauty will give students better preparation for employment and also progression to HE?


The Diploma will introduce the learners to the world of work of Hair and Beauty, and give them an insight into the skills and knowledge needed, but I don’t think it will make them ‘job ready’ as nothing can prepare you for this unless you are actually doing the job.  If their optional units include the equivalent to NVQs then maybe they will be ‘job ready’.  In terms of progression given the reasons I gave above relating to lack of progression to Hair and Beauty I am not sure it will give them better preparation for progression to HE.



What is the best way to engage with employers and involve them in the training of their employees?  Also can the college help employers to see progression is important?


It is all about communication and honing the skills and experience that are available.  The Beauty department has ‘guest speakers’ weeks’ adhoc throughout the year and a very successful Industry week when a variety of speakers come in.  Most of these are our local employers and we have an excellent relationship with them.


In the Hair department we have a college artistic team and once a month a local employer guest spots and trains for us.  We also have them judge in-house competitions throughout the year.

Employers are asked for their thoughts on the sequencing of the training and whether this meets the needs of their business strategy.  We offer them our facilities for staff training as a reward for their assistance at promotions and competitions.


A newsletter is complied showcasing what employers are undertaking for our students and this is sent out to all employers in the area.  We use local success to inspire through target setting for learners in work-based learning (wbl) and feeding that back to employers through their training assessors.  Reviews are held in the workplace and feedback on attendance is given on the day.  There is no wbl for Beauty but the links with employers are strong and the team have worked hard to develop these.  The Head of Hair has worked very hard to get employer engagement working.


Has gaining an HE qualification influenced your own views of progression possibilities for vocational learners?


Yes most definitely although I still think there are lots of barriers in this area, Hair in particular.  If I can get the 6 (or as many as possible) that I am supporting through the Cert Ed due to my own experiences then I will be very pleased.  It has opened my eyes and made me think that I am just as good as anyone else.  I knew what I wanted to do career wise so it has been an alternative way of achieving HE qualifications as opposed to my brother who went to University but didn’t know what he wanted to do career wise.


Do you feel that gaining an HE qualification has altered the way that you teach?


Before doing the Cert Ed I would have categorically said No, it is only a qualification at the end of the day and I didn’t see how it could make me a better teacher as I had been teaching for 10 years before undertaking the qualification. The course was mandatory and I had to do it. However, looking back, there has been a change in my teaching, but I think this is a combination of qualification and experience. Being at the forefront of new teaching techniques and initiatives is crucial to the job I do, so continued professional development is paramount to my success in the role. I am reflecting on my teaching much more than I ever used – a direct result of the HE qualification I believe, and this had helped me to ‘personalise’ the learning to meet individual needs. So a combination of experience, qualification, new found ideas and skills, and reflecting on practice has changed the way I teach to an extent.


What made you decide to undertake HE qualifications?


I made a conscious decision to convert the Cert Ed into a BEd.  I saw colleagues undertaking similar qualifications and although I didn’t see it at the time reflecting on the time I spent on the course the Cert Ed has given me a good grounding.  Also if I want to progress further with my career having a degree is almost a necessity.  I then undertook a postgraduate certificate in Coaching and Mentoring which fitted in with my job as it was part-time and also fitted in with my role within the college. It also plugged a gap between the BEd and a Masters.  I want to go for a MEd for my own personal satisfaction to prove to myself and my family that ‘I can do it’ and prove that ‘not all hairdressers are only interested in where you are going on holiday this year!’