Let’s talk about SAKS: Provider scores top Ofsted marks

The provider was credited for working closely with employers, supporting its workforce, and for apprentices feeling safe

The provider was credited for working closely with employers, supporting its workforce, and for apprentices feeling safe


A hairdressing training provider has retained its ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted after a 15-year inspection hiatus.

SAKS (Education) Limited, which has 434 learners studying various hairdressing and barbering apprenticeships at level 2 and 3, was awarded a grade one in every area of its
October inspection.

The report, published on Tuesday, commends educators as “open, friendly and welcoming,” and for “celebrating apprentices’ strengths and supporting them to be resilient in the face of challenges they face,” including Covid-19.

Founded in 1999, SAKS was last inspected in 2006 by the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) – which was absorbed by Ofsted in 2007.

Grade one education providers are being inspected this term for the first time since 2010, after an exemption was removed last year.

Inspectors compliment employer involvement, educators, and governance

Ofsted said SAKS’ educators and leaders work “very effectively and closely” with employers to plan the curriculum, which ensures apprentices develop skills they need and in the right order.

If apprentices do not develop the skills they need rapidly enough, teaching plans are adjusted with employers to help learners catch up.


“Highly experienced” teaching staff keep up to date thanks to frequent training provided by leaders, by updating their product knowledge and by gaining other qualifications.

The workforce is supported “exceptionally well,” with leaders managing staff with compassion and ensuring they are not overloaded with work or have unmanageable caseloads.

Apprentices report feeling safe and that they know how to recognise risks and report concerns. Social media groups have weekly ‘hot topic’ discussions among apprentices, which focus on everyday issues such as the recent spate of drink-spiking incidents.

Inspectors also highlighted the provider’s “highly effective” governance, led by SAKS Education chair and former Ofsted and AIL inspector Phil Hatton.

“Board members share the ambition and vision of leaders to provide high-quality apprenticeships” and “regularly” challenge and support leaders to ensure “continuous improvement”.

Ofsted grade ‘a real credit to our apprentices and educators,’ boss says

SAKS currently delivers from academies based in Darlington and Maidstone as well in employers’ workplaces.

Tina Ockerby, managing director of the Darlington-based independent provider, called the grade one “a real credit to our apprentices and educators – and of course the salons across the UK who support their learners so wholeheartedly”.

She added that the provider knew it had to make a “huge effort” when coronavirus struck in order not to lose apprentices during lockdown, and a remote learning survey of apprentices gave SAKS a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Phil Hatton called the provider “the best I have ever seen for self-assessment, quality improvement, professional development of staff, support for apprentices, safeguarding and the focus that all have on developing practical skills.

“I am proud to be associated with them and what they do so well.”

Pictured top (left to right): Sukye Bass, academy hairdressing educator; Eve Lofthouse, hairdressing at Number 4; Tina Ockerby, managing director, Saks Apprenticeships, Conner Heaney, Saks Middlesbrough

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  1. Phil Hatton

    Thanks to everyone who has offered their congratulations to Saks Education in the last two days. It is a real pity that the inspection report does not capture some of the unique good practice offered by Saks to apprentices and employers, as their adoption would benefit the sector greatly. It would be easy for Ofsted to place a good practice box of 100 words in every outstanding inspection report as happened in previous inspectorates who were more focused on improving the sector.