The Government Officially Scraps HBBT T-Levels

February 02, 2024

After much lobbying by the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF), the Secretary of State for Education announced in March 2023 the decision to delay the delivery of the Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy (HBBT) T Level to 2024. Since then, the Government has met regularly with the NHBF, hairdressing, barbering and beauty professionals and employers to discuss their skills needs, as well as with other sector representatives regarding the planned HBBT T Level.

The beauty sector told the government that a good quality level 3 classroom-based progression route is desirable. Therefore, the government has announced it will explore introducing a T Level which focuses on the beauty sector, with an emphasis on science – the expectation is that this could be introduced after 2025.

However, feedback from employers in hairdressing and barbering has been different. They have argued that the best route for learners into their industry is through completion of an existing apprenticeship, or through a Level 2 classroom-based provision that will get them into the salon faster than a 2-year Level 3 programme.

As such, the government has announced that they will not be introducing the HBBT T Level to the hair sector and will not be pursuing hair or barbering specialisms in future T Levels.

The Government has said that it is confident that this is the right decision, which puts the career prospects of learners and the needs of the industry first, though it was not taken lightly. The decision not to roll out the HBBT T Level will also mean that, from September 2024, there will also be no T Level Foundation Year for the hair and beauty route.

The Government acknowledged that this may be disappointing to some and will be disruptive for those providers who were planning to deliver the HBBT T Level.

Level 2 will continue as planned with the development of technical qualifications, aligning to relevant standards in Hair and Beauty to provide a classroom-based alternative to the apprenticeship. These technical qualifications would be available for teaching from September 2026. The NHBF has been informed that, whilst there will be a development in technical qualifications against relevant hairdressing standards at level 3, this area will not be reformed until at least 2027. In the meantime, the Department for Education will continue to fund existing qualifications which means that learners can continue to be enrolled onto existing provision.

Caroline Larissey, NHBF chief executive says:

Following several meetings, where we outlined the concerns of our Members, we are pleased that the Minister has listened and taken on board our recommendations to support our sector, by focusing on a Beauty T level and no longer introducing a combined Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy (HBBT) T Level.

Employers from hair salons and barbershops will always prefer that a prospective employee should enter the sector via a “job ready” route or qualification, such as an apprenticeship or through an equivalent college-based Level 2 qualification.

Emerging findings from our latest state of the industry survey in January show that finding experienced staff and apprentices is still a major barrier to growth for the sector.

It is envisioned that the beauty T level will provide academic kudos with stakeholders for progression into advanced therapies and aesthetics, because of its greater technical and academic bias compared with the traditional vocational pathway’.

What’s more, the government says they are taking steps to raising standards and funding for apprenticeships in these industries to ensure high-quality training provision. They say they are working with hair employers to potentially improve assessment for the Level 2 Hair Professional apprenticeship, which, together with the funding uplift, aims to increase quality and completion rates.

The funding uplift:

57% funding uplift for the Level 2 Hairdressing Professional standard (from £7,000 to £11,000).

28% funding uplift for the Level 2 Barbering apprenticeship (from £7,000 to £9,000).

Alongside this, the government is also working with employers via the Hair Professional Apprenticeship Steering group, supported by the NHBF, to review the Level 3 Advanced and Creative Hair Professional Occupational Standard and apprenticeship. This review will ensure that the apprenticeship continues to meet employer needs, as well as supporting progression from level 2 to ensure hair professionals can build lasting careers in the sector.