Why did you volunteer at the Ridge Employability College for SEN learners during lockdown?
I needed to keep busy during lockdown so I contacted the college and explained I’d be happy to volunteer and help in whatever way I could. It changed my life as all of the students were so willing to learn. The college is a post-16 college for sensory and physically impaired learners who have a range of conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy and down’s syndrome.
How did your barbering course at the college get started?
The college leader told the students I was a hairdresser while I was volunteering and asked if they wanted to try it. I gave a careers talk on hairdressing to begin with and a number of the students attended the talk. I offered to follow this up with a barbering demonstration for whoever wanted to see it and I brought in a dolls head to show them barbering.
Afterwards, the director of the college called me and said it was marvellous how much I’d inspired the learners with barbering.
I organised a meeting with the director and explained I could create a basic barbering training course to help them get volunteer roles in a barbershop. I wrote a basic course and started to get to know the students and their individual needs.
The college helped with getting the kit required for each of the students and when it arrived the students said it felt like Christmas Day. One of the boys was shaking when the comb kit arrived.
What advice would you give to hairdressers who want to do something similar in their local area?
These students have changed my life completely so I’d advise any hairdresser to volunteer at a SEN college. I said I could stay until my salon reopened in April, but I now spend my days off working with the students on the barbering course I created for them.
We do the barbering course all day on Monday and on Tuesday I go to the college and mentor the students.
What does the future hold for you and your SEN learners’ barbering course?
I want the students to come out with some sort of certificate so they can go on to become barbers. Unfortunately, the students can’t go to college and carry out an NVQ because they are not academically-minded from a literacy and numeracy point of view. This means we will need a different type of qualification for these students to be recognised by the industry in the long-term. As it stands my students won’t be able to become apprentices but they will be able to volunteer in barbershops.
The demand is clearly there as another institution for SEN learners has also got in touch with me and asked if their students can carry out the barbering course as well. The challenge I have is once the course is finished none of these students will be able to receive a formal qualification to become barbers. These students cannot carry out an NVQ in today’s society and would need a special qualification to be created for them. If there is anyone reading this who would be able to help, I would love to hear from them.