‘Shock’ as ministers suddenly scrap hairdressing and barbering T Levels

Hair industry employers preferred apprenticeships to the proposed T Level

Hair industry employers preferred apprenticeships to the proposed T Level

30 Jan 2024, 13:33

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Ministers have scrapped plans to introduce T Levels in hairdressing and barbering after two years of development – with proposals for a beauty therapy qualification pushed back to at least 2025.

The courses were originally due to be taught from September 2023 but were delayed to September 2024 after education secretary Gillian Keegan flagged quality concerns, saying at the time awarding organisations had “more work to do” to meet “the high-quality bar required”.

Awarding organisation NCFE was contracted to develop the hairdressing, barbering and beauty therapy T Levels in partnership with VTCT. They began developing the qualification in October 2021.

It has now emerged that the hair and barbering qualifications have been scrapped altogether.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) said this news is a “huge shock” to colleges as they have already begun enrolling students on the courses for September.

Catherine Sezen, director of education policy at AoC, said: “While we can see that it is logical for a level 2 hair qualification to lead to an apprenticeship, we have to question why it has taken so long to reach this decision.”

Experts from the hair industry appear to have shunned the qualification. 

Skills minister Robert Halfon said today the government now believes the best routes for students in that sector are existing level 2 and 3 apprenticeships and level 2 classroom qualifications. 

The government is “exploring” a standalone T Level in beauty and aesthetics that could be introduced “after 2025” as the industry wants a “good quality level 3 classroom-based progression route”.

However, in Halfon’s statement to parliament today, he said this “differs from feedback we have had from representatives in the hair sector” who have said they prefer existing apprenticeships and qualifications. 

“As such, we will no longer be introducing a combined T Level,” he said. 

FE Week understands the two awarding organisations, NCFE and VTCT, will now conduct a scoping exercise with the beauty sector to test whether a standalone T Level is viable.

This comes as the Department for Education published a provisional list of 71 qualifications at risk of losing their funding because they overlap with wave four T Levels. Wave four includes qualifications in agriculture, land management and production; animal care and management; craft and design; legal services and media broadcast and production. 

Kevin Gilmartin, post-16 specialist at the Association of Schools and College Leaders, said today’s announcements will leave many schools and colleges “in limbo who have spent time and money getting ready for teaching these qualifications this year, and will have offered places to students as a result”.

He added: “This will mean considerable disruption and disappointment for many. It begs the question as to why there is such a rush to dispense with so many BTECs and similar qualifications before T Levels have been properly embedded. The government should suspend the defunding process so that the rushed rollout of T Levels doesn’t leave thousands of students without a viable post-16 pathway.”

Halfon said: “We remain fully committed to the roll out of T Levels, which will form the backbone of the Prime Minister’s ambitious Advanced British Standard and help us build a skills and apprenticeship nation.”

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  1. In the hairdressing world, the Mullet is apparently coming back into fashion (short on top, long at the back).

    There are parallels to one size fits all skills policy here, short on funding, long on rhetoric.

    History has already shown us that very few people can successfully pull off a Mullet.

  2. Albert Wright

    So far, the Government has made a mess of the introduction of T levels, as it did with Traineeships and even the introduction of the new Apprenticeship standards, replacing Apprenticeship Frameworks, was far from smooth.

    Reform of post 16 education was never going to be easy and the power of A levels, as a well loved and understood brand, by parents and employers, was always going to be difficult to dislodge.

    However, A levels are very academic and are not for everyone. Many young people need to study alternative qualifications that are not just about brain power and essays but are more related to skills and practice while retaining the use of the brain for written and verbal communication.

    T levels may not yet be perfect. They need to get a better balance between brain and skills and practice and may still be too academic. Initially many students were heavily challenged by the format and content of the new qualification and failed to progress.

    It is important that technology based T levels have parity of esteem with A levels as level 3 qualifications. However, we must accept that A levels are more likely to lead to level 6 undergraduate degrees while T levels are more likely to take a route to level 4 and 5.