Schools ‘in limbo’ as ministers scrap hairdressing and barbering T-levels

Leaders' union warns of 'considerable disruption' as plans ditched after years of development

Leaders' union warns of 'considerable disruption' as plans ditched after years of development

30 Jan 2024, 13:59

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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.

Kevin Gilmartin, post-16 specialist at the ASCL leaders’ union, 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”.

“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.”

DfE ‘exploring’ standalone beauty T-level

Skills minister Robert Halfon said today the government now believes the best routes for students in the hairdressing and barbering 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.

Schools 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.

It 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.

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.”

Meanwhile, the government has published a third provisional list of qualifications that face the axe to pave the way for T-levels.

The further 71 subjects to be scrapped include popular creative media practice and animal management BTECs.

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