Taking pride of place in the foyer of Lasswade High School are the plans for the brand new school already under construction. Huge open spaces where light floods in, conduits for up-to-the-minute technology and fabulous gym facilities are clearly marked; it will be an institution the whole community will value.
One area, close to what will be a sunshine-filled atrium, is already earmarked for the school’s new state-of-the-art hair salon. There will be plenty of room and light to run a fully functional salon.
But until it opens, S3 and S4 pupils are learning the ins and outs of hairdressing in two smallish rooms off another open-plan teaching area. It doesn’t seem to dent their enthusiasm. As half the girls section their fellow students’ hair ready for a smooth blowdry session, they seem almost unconscious of their rather cramped conditions. There are enough chairs and equipment, and they are spending two hours learning something they love.
For the past four years, Lasswade has offered intermediate hairdressing to its pupils through a combination of day release at Jewel and Esk College and in-school sessions with Ambition Centre for Training, and from the beginning it has been popular. However, two years ago, deputy headteacher Colin Mitchell decided to link up exclusively with ACT, and since then the course has been massively over-subscribed. But just 12 pupils a year are accepted on to the course, and each must be vetted and interviewed before being allowed to proceed.
“They are a lovely bunch of girls,” says Mr Mitchell. “We are delighted with their enthusiasm. And we are delighted with ACT. Kerry, our ACT educator, has motivated the students so much, they are often willing to come in early before lunch ends to start their class.”
He reckons more than 50 per cent of those completing the course so far have gone into the profession after school. Talking to the current S3s it seems even more have caught the bug. All the pupils say they want to become hairdressers. And they are all aiming high, determined to join top salons locally or in Edinburgh for their four weeks of day release placement and their work experience week.
Fitting the course into the timetable was a challenge initally, but Mr Mitchell has managed to schedule two-period sessions for each year group by putting hairdressing in the same column as languages and PE.
“We recognised the girls needed two periods of 50 minutes otherwise they simply wouldn’t have enough time,” Mr Mitchell explains. “So while they are in the salon, the rest of their year group does one period of languages and one of PE. When the language pupils do their other two periods, the hairdressing pupils do one extra PE lesson and one dance session.”
By the end of two years, Lasswade’s hairdressing students will have spent 60 per cent of their time developing their practical skills and 40 per cent learning the theory of hairdressing. They will have achieved their Skills for Work Intermediate 1, which will include two four-week placements of one day a week at a proper hair salon. They will have also had sessions with visiting hairdressers, technicians from at least one of the major haircare brands and past pupils now established in professional salons, as well as day trips to salons and wholesalers to help them understand the daily requirements of the craft.
The opportunities and inspirational teaching will continue when the new Lasswade High School opens, and while future students of hairdressing may have more room, they couldn’t have more enthusiasm and dedication to their learning than the current cohort.