Exeter-based senior state registered hairdresser (SSRH), Mary Pugsley has been recognised with an MBE in The New Year Honours list for her services to disadvantaged people in Devon. With just under 1,150 extraordinary individuals across the UK receiving an accolade and 422 awarded an MBE, Mary is one of only eight Devonians to be selected for this prestigious award.
It’s always been Mary’s dream to support those furthest removed from education or work-place environments; with disabilities, additional needs or in the care system, from as young as 13 who are battling against the odds. As a result, she set up Hair@theAcademy, the only one its kind in the UK, at the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education (ERADE) in 2014. This unique programme supports vulnerable young people and adults not in education, employment or training, to get qualifications in health & beauty, hairdressing and barbering.
Mary Pugsley said: “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 programmes in salon work experience with excellent links with city-centre salons and been highly successful in empowering and moving learners into employment.” She adds: “I feel very humble to have received an MBE, and still can’t quite believe it. At first when I received the letter from the Cabinet Office, I thought it was a joke until I saw I had to respond to St. James’ Palace! I’m so looking forward to meeting the Queen and will be accepting this wonderful accolade on behalf of my dedicated team and our amazing students.”
ERADE is a charity which operates a non-maintained, residential special school and college for deaf young people. Sara Papworth Director of Finance & Resources said: “Hairdressing and barbering has proved very popular with deaf students and has been valuable in equipping them with important skills for a later, economically independent life.” She adds: “More recently Mary has extended the reach of her provision to include hairdressing and related training for disadvantaged adults. The Academy is proud to partner with, and support Mary in these very valuable and sometimes life changing opportunities for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
A testament to the outstanding service Mary provides is summed up by the fact that all her trainers are former students who want to help others. The results speak for themselves with a high success record of a 96% pass rate for students going on to further education; part-time or full-time work or becoming self-employed.
Long-term stay at home mums, Nik and Abbey from Exeter embarked on new careers in hairdressing, after graduating from the Academy with a Level 2 Diploma and time spent at salon placements. They were offered full-time apprenticeships at Saks in Princesshay and The Hair Boutique in Musgrave Row in 2016. Tom Wilson, owner of Saks said: “We are lucky to have found a talented apprentice in Nik, I cannot praise her highly enough. From day one, she has had an incredible work ethic and such a positive impact on our team.”
Annie Raine, Quality and Performance Manager – Learn Devon concludes: “Learn Devon chose to work with Mary because she is very good at reaching an audience of vulnerable young people who would not continue with or return to education without the significant support and encouragement which she and her team offers. Most of the young people are girls who are at risk of offending, or suffering exploitation by others, often with very chaotic and unstable family backgrounds. Mary offers a flexible and individualised approach to each learner, ensuring they gain confidence and skills which have ultimately enabled many to get jobs in the hair and beauty industry. She is highly regarded by managers of hair salons across the city of Exeter, and they know that employees who have trained with her will have had an excellent preparation for work.”