Exeter-based senior state registered hairdresser (SSRH), Mary Pugsley, recognised with an MBE in the New Year’s Honour list for services to disadvantaged people in Devon, set up Hair@theAcademy at Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education (ERADE) in 2004. The Deaf Academy are relocating to Exmouth in 2020, and Mary and her team are now looking for new, larger premises to convert into a specialist training salon suitable for education, in order to continue providing this much needed and unique support programme , the only one of its kind in the UK.
Mary and her team offer hairdressing, barbering and customer service qualifications to those furthest removed from education or work-place environments and make no profit; in the last few years, however, the number of students has grown exponentially. As a result, they are having to turn away a new student every week because of insufficient space. They are now on a mission to move to larger premises in the city-centre in order to continue their good works.
Mary Pugsley MBE – Owner of Hair@theAcademy said: “It’s devastating to turn new students away and our plea to the good people of Exeter is to help us find suitable space of c. 1,000 sq.ft., in order to continue our service and support to these vulnerable young people. We are hopeful that there is a landlord or company, who own a large space in and around the city-centre which is standing empty or available for a reasonable rent.” She adds: “The clock is ticking and it’s pivotal that we find a new space soon suitable for conversion to create a salon so we can continue to promote inclusion, reduce exclusion, eliminate barriers to learning and participation for all those hard to reach students. We also need the right premises in the centre of Exeter to help the homeless get into hairdressing training.”
It had always been Mary’s dream to support vulnerable young people and adults in her home city. This includes learners who are vulnerably housed, young people in the care system or with additional needs or disabilities. Mary said: “We take in students from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances, many of whom have nowhere else to go. They come through the door without making any eye contact and once qualified leave with their heads held high!”
To accommodate The Academy’s growing number of learners, Mary is hoping to set up a 15-chair hairdressing salon with space to include massage and beauty facilities, small office and a break-out area. “We will also aim to create pop-up salons to spread the reach to those in need around the city and beyond. This in turn will offer them the opportunity to move into paid employment, thus relieving the financial burden on the community.”
Mary adds: “Our learners are predominantly in care, homeless, seeking asylum or have a learning disability and experience significant barriers to their learning and opportunities. We provide training programmes and have excellent links with city-centre salons and been highly successful in empowering and moving learners into employment, with a success rate of over 95%.”
A testament to the outstanding service Mary provides is that many of her trainers are former students themselves and they stay on to help new students build confidence and achieve a qualification. The 52-week provision helps c.50 young people every week and the team do not stop in the holidays, working through the year to give continuity to support the students even out of term-time. Mary explained: “We don’t get paid for the work we do over the summer, but we do it because we want to be there.”