Katy Wayne knows exactly what lack of self-confidence means for so many students – she was there once. But now as a lecturer, she’s turning nervous school-leavers into confident professionals.
Georgia Redfern (18), level 2 hairdressing
Katy treats us all equally and fairly and she’s never tough on us. If we don’t understand anything she’ll help us out. The hairdressing techniques we learn are easy to follow as she teaches them step by step. Besides demonstrating, she comes round to us individually to show us how to cut hair. She really helped me when I had my tonsils out — she let my other teachers know when I’d be absent and when I’d be back, ensuring my attendance record was unaffected. If we message her asking for help, she responds immediately. She’ll stay on to answer questions at the end of lectures and this helps us get through work quicker. She’s also very supportive with quick reply phone calls and messages if work is getting us down.
Lauren Truman (18), level 2 hairdressing
Katy gets along really well with all her students. She doesn’t just demonstrate things, she’ll go through it again with us to make sure we all understand. She’s just so funny when she chats to us about things that happen to her each day. It’s the way she says it! I’ve been with her two years and at first I needed quite a push, so she sat me down and talked through things I couldn’t do or was stressed out by and personal problems outside the course. She’s not judgmental; she’ll never say something’s been done wrong but rather that it can be sorted out. She’s also encouraged us to think about our career goals, taking us to meet schoolchildren and letting us do all the talking to promote hairdressing at school career events, which has made me think about teaching one day too.
“I didn’t do too well academically at school and really lacked confidence when I came to High Peak College [now Buxton & Leek] to do a level 3 apprenticeship in hairdressing,” says Katy Wayne. During day release at college, her passion for teaching was kindled when she began supporting full-time level 2 students: “I realised plenty of people like me were starting a new journey where they could succeed.
“I gained a lot of confidence, mixing with other students; I won a Student of the Year award three years running and seemed to do really well in competitions.” After level 3 and assessor awards, she was asked to stay on as a volunteer to help students still struggling and then her head of department suggested she start teacher training. That led on to a paid assessor’s job and then a range of other employment opportunities across several salons, including hairdressing in a hospital on dementia and rehabilitation wards and running her own business.
Keeping up to date despite Covid
“I kept volunteering throughout my teacher training and have never really left the college; I became a full-time assessor in 2002 and programme co-ordinator/lecturer in 2004. Even now I still do some commercial work; you have to keep one foot in the door of industry to maintain your skills and knowledge.”
That’s quite difficult during Covid, she says. Pre-pandemic, she would attend seminars, go to training sessions put on by hair and beauty product suppliers such as Wella or Dermalogica, and take learners to student-focused events. “I’d also go to City and Guilds networking events (we have to complete CPD training each year to maintain our professional assessor status); I’d do a few hours in a salon when possible and continue to look after a few personal clients. I’d also watch lots of videos. Facebook is full of inspiring ideas on style, trend and colours; it’s vital to keep up your knowledge and skills.”
One of Katy’s favourite roles is working with students needing additional support. “When the college delivered the 14-16 vocational provision where GCSE-level year 10 and 11 school pupils attended, I’d take them; from there I built up my passion to support learners from a low academic background, lacking in self-confidence or motivation.
Every student has a unique story
“I love inspiring students who might have had a negative experience in the education system, within their personal life or socially. Many need nurturing and emotional support from the college alongside academic support. I enjoy seeing those students change and adapt to become the professionals they want to be.”
To inspire her students, Katy aims to get to know every learner and their unique story — they’re all different. “It’s finding out about any barriers to learning that may have knocked their self-belief. Then, after a few weeks, you recognise what makes them tick and how to work with them to ensure they are stretched and challenged. There are many ways of doing that: I’ll never, for instance, speak down to a student but will try to be level with them — that way you can quickly build up trust and respect.”
She says hair and beauty is based on teamwork. If someone is not a team player within a salon environment, that salon doesn’t function properly. So it’s about turning them into a team player. “I’ll never ask a student to do something I wouldn’t do, so I’ll get involved with them at the end of a session, say, when tidying and cleaning need doing.
‘If I don’t raise a smile, I’ve failed’
“A sense of humour is also really important. If I haven’t got each student engaged and smiling during every lesson, I feel I haven’t done my job! They need to leave the learning environment happy, feeling they’ve had a good experience and achieved something.
“For anyone entering teaching, if something from your planning isn’t working in a lesson, think on your feet and change it. Go with the flow — don’t dictate the lesson but sculpt it as you go. Don’t be afraid to implement a change of pace or focus if it’s where that lesson leads naturally.
“It’s also important to be quite learner-led and ask students how they’d like some sessions to be run; if we’re, say, working on a specific colouring technique, you might first ask if they prefer to work on a head block or a live model, or do more a bit more experiential learning. We normally come to an agreement and then the students feel part of the decision process. It’s reverse psychology — if they think they’re driving it, they’ll engage more.”
Understanding learner behaviour
One of the challenges is understanding and modifying learner behaviour. Maintaining mental health has become paramount, particularly given the pandemic’s effect on students’ learning needs.
“When I started teaching 22 years ago, it seemed few students had ‘learning difficulties’ but now we regularly have several with acute needs. Students suffer increasing anxiety brought on partly by exam and society pressures. In response, I’ll often set some individual learners very small, student-led targets and gradually build up from there.”
Needless to say, by the end of a course, the department regularly sends out a confident set of qualified young professionals into good jobs, including working on cruise liners and international spas. “We often do well in regional competitions and have had students reaching the finals in the Wella Exposure Competitions.”
Katy tells newcomers to be realistic about their expectations. The job is not just practical hairdressing; admin and organisation take up considerable time. There is also the scientific element.
Face-to-face delivery provided via Teams
“We put all our students who arrived in September straight onto Microsoft’s Teams platform, Etrackr and BlackBoard to embed online learning, so whenever a learner needs to self-isolate, they all know what to do. I provide face-to-face delivery via Teams and keep strictly to timetable. We changed our curriculum planning and front-loaded the practical work, delivering much of it before Christmas so we can now focus on the theory during lockdown. Level 2 theory includes basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, health and safety legislation, consultation, working effectively as well as infection control. We also offer enrichment activities such as learning first aid and sign language (because everyone’s wearing masks!).”
At home during Covid students continue to polish their skills in areas such as styling and dressing hair, speed and timing. They also learn experientially (learning through mistakes rather than being constantly corrected). “I get them, for example, to come up with their own ways of creating the same colour result through case studies, looking at techniques and influencing factors, and they then discuss how they got on, what worked and what didn’t. There’s nothing like sharing good practice mixed with a bit of finding out the hard way!”