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Inspire salon at Joseph Rowntree School
MAXINE GORDON meets the A Level students at a York school who are a cut above their peers.
INSPIRE has all the trappings of a classy hair and beauty salon. The interior is light and spacious, with vibrant pink leather chairs and cerise towels lending a trendy edge. New-age background music enhances the mood of relaxation.
Lying back on a treatment bed while therapist Abigail Wright completes my pampering pedicure a loud bleep from the Tannoy disrupts the calm for a moment.
“That’s the school bell,” says 18-year-old Abigail, looking up from the careful trimming of my toe cuticles.
Welcome to high school, 21st-century style.
In a bid to offer pupils solid vocational qualifications alongside traditional academic ones, the rebuilt Joseph Rowntree School in New Earswick included a state-of-the-art hair and beauty salon in its blueprint.
The salon, Inspire, opened two years ago and is now taking bookings and letting pupils loose on customers.
This term, opening hours are from 3.30pm to 5.30pm on Wednesdays, for beauty treatments only. From September, Inspire, will also open to the public on Thursdays from 3.15pm to 6.15pm for hairdressing appointments.
Already, it has regular clients. Sandra Judd has been coming every Wednesday afternoon for the past month. Today she’s having a pedicure.
“I’ve already had a luxury manicure with paraffin wax and a facial. I think it’s wonderful – the girls are all so lovely and it’s such a nice atmosphere. I’ve asked them to book me in for the next three weeks.”
Sandra works at the school as an admin assistant, so Inspire is ideal for when she wants a spot of “me time”.
“When I finish at four o’clock, I just walk straight down here; it’s very, very handy,” she says. “I go away feeling very relaxed.”
Other clients include friends and family of pupils, but also members of the general public.
Prices reflect the training nature of the salon; manicures are from £3; pedicures from £7; an eyebrow tint costs £5 while a one-hour facial is a snip at £8.
Sharon Osborn runs the salon and is a qualified hair and beauty tutor.
She said the commercial side of the salon gave pupils a priceless taste of life in a real working environment.
And she pointed out the wealth of career opportunities open to pupils.
“The health and beauty industry is massive and it’s expanding. These courses can lead to careers as beauty therapists or hairdressers either in a salon or mobile.
“It opens up careers in editorial work, working on hair or spa magazines, and even travel; they can work on cruise ships and in spa hotels. They can go on to become make-up artists, or do specialist make-up for film and TV.”
One male student, she said, took the qualification so he could work in a hairdressing salon to help pay his way through university.
For many students, Inspire offers an opportunity to combine quality vocational training with A-Level study.
Emma Sorby is 17 and is in the first year of a Level Two beauty therapy qualification at Inspire. She is also studying for A-Levels in business and media.
She said: “I love it because it gives me loads of career choices. I could link it with business or go into media make-up. It is the reason I came to Joseph Rowntree; it gives me the chance to study beauty as well as my A Levels.”
Eighteen-year-old Sophie Wall is combining A Levels in art, textiles and photography with a qualification in beauty therapy. She is going to college next to do an art foundation course.
“I like it because it is different and gives me more options,” said Sophie. “I love doing the assessments and the treatments – facials, pedicures, manicures, eyelash and eyebrow tints.”
Abigail is having her final assessments during our visit. Janice Richardson, head of hair and beauty, watches with a clipboard in her hand as Abigail performs a relaxing pedicure treatment on me.
She begins by washing my feet in a foot spa, then preparing my toes for a striking coral nail varnish that I have pre-selected. The treatment includes an exfoliation, moisturising and massage of the feet and calves. It is bliss and Abigail handles herself with competence and confidence. She passes easily.
Abigail also loves photography and may go on to York College to continue with beauty studies and photography. She has loved her time at Inspire, where she has also learned hairdressing – working first on a doll’s head, before progressing to friends and family.
“I feel I am out working,” says Abigail about the salon environment at the school.
Among her regular clients are her mum and gran. Abigail gave her gran a pedicure. “It was her first one ever and the first time she’d ever had her toes painted! She’s coming back next week for a manicure,” said Abigail.
As for fellow students thinking hair and beauty is the easy option, Abigail disagrees. “They are so wrong. People think it’s just practical, but there is so much science involved. I have had to learn all the muscles and bones in the body and have had to work really hard.”
Abigail hopes she can combine her two passions in her career. “I’d like to set up a business where people come in to be pampered and have their hair and make-up done and then their pictures taken.”
Joseph Rowntree shares the salon’s facilities and training with other schools in York and also runs evening classes for adult learners.
There are plans to keep the salon running over summer.
To this end, Sharon would like to hear from young hair and beauty therapists, perhaps who have just qualified, who might wish to rent a chair at the salon. “They might not be confident to go straight into a commercial salon, and still need some guidance, and we can offer that here,” says Sharon.
Gill Bond, assistant head teacher at Joseph Rowntree, said the school salon was the first of its kind in York. She said: “This gives students the opportunity to partake in a commercial salon and helps them be work ready when they leave school.”
To find out more about Inspire, or make a booking telephone 01904 552117 or email email@example.com