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Exeter-based Hair@theAcademy announces 20-year-old tutor, Tyler Gray has been awarded the academy’s first-ever ‘Ambassador of Excellence’ accolade  in recognition of his outstanding achievements and inspiration to help others achieve their goals.

Established in 2014 by Mary Pugsley MBE Hair@theAcademy is the only one of its kind in the UK.  The unique training programme delivers hairdressing, barbering, customer service, Math’s & English to

support young adults with complex needs, including learners who are vulnerably housed, in the care system and from all kinds of backgrounds or circumstances, towards completion of work-ready qualifications.  The 52-week provision with an ethos of education to employment, achieves a 95% success of getting learners into paid employment. 

Mary Pugsley MBE – Director and founder of Hair@theAcademy said: “A journey of constant bullying by his peers at school because he was different and misunderstood by teachers left Tyler with a complete lack of confidence and feeling depressed and lonely. Due to his severe mental health conditions at that time, he struggled to attend a mainstream school.  Tyler was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and recommended to the academy, where we helped him to develop, flourish and blossom as an individual.” She comments: “Today he is a full-time teacher in the salon and a wonderful mentor to other young people. His dedication and outstanding accomplishments to change his life for the better has made us all so very proud of him. He’s a perfect role model for our students and really deserves this award.”

Suffering from anxiety and mental health issues, Tyler was enrolled at Hair@theAcademy on a Level 2 award in the hair and beauty sector aged just 15 and has never left!  Five years on, through 1:1 training, ongoing support and care, Tyler has developed into a confident young man who teaches and mentors others as a way of giving back.  A fully qualified tutor, he works full-time at the academy teaching the most vulnerable young people in greater Exeter to learn a new trade and is a shining example to the students, many of whom have mental health issues, to strive to be the very best they can be.

Tyler Gray said: “I transitioned into High-School in 2012 which made me feel anxious and spent most days in isolation or just not attending.  My peers treated me badly, and the teachers were unable to engage me in education as I felt I was never understood and learnt differently to others. As a result, I was constantly seen as a target and labelled the ‘naughty teenager’ by support staff at school who failed to offer additional learning support resulting in further deterioration of my mental health.”

Unfortunately, in late 2015 shortly after starting with the academy, Tyler had to leave school on medical grounds and extreme circumstances due to his severe mental health problems and low self-esteem. Tyler explains: “The first few sessions at the salon were incredibly challenging and my anxiety levels made it impossible for me to even walk through the door. Mary and her team were wonderful, they came out to sit and chat with me and made me feel comfortable enough to finally find the courage to go in.” 

Tyler adds: “After attending the course for three months my mental health improved massively, my confidence grew, and I felt there was truly something to fight for. There were some low points, but I was always made to feel by the tutors that ‘I COULD DO IT’!  When I got my Level Two Diploma and qualified in hairdressing and barbering, I was so excited.  Previously I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do and felt I had no purpose, yet just six months in I’d made lifelong friends and had something positive to concentrate on.”

“At every meeting I had with people involved in my care, Mary made the time to be there to share her positive views – she and the fantastic team never gave up on me. When I completed my course and gained my education and training qualification, I continued at the salon as a mentor and love helping people just like me. It improved my own mental health as I finally had a purpose which makes me feel happy. I vividly remember the day Mary told me how proud she was at how far I’d come and that I’d be an inspirational teacher.  My face lit up as I knew this is exactly what I wanted to do and be a role model to students – I’d found my vocation!”

“I’m now a full-time teacher working five days a week supporting a wide range of different learners; helping them through their own incredible journey really makes my day, said Tyler.  “I’m also very excited to have now begun my assessor’s qualification in our fabulous new salon.  I am very much part of the team who have not only made me feel welcomed and supported over the last five years, but also helped me with every aspect of my life,  giving me something positive to concentrate on. I can’t thank Hair@theAcademy enough for changing my life for the better and for this honour, it means so much to me and hope it motivates others to achieve their dreams.”

“Meatal Health issues affect 1 in 4 people every year and being responsive to the needs of the industry is a top priority,” says Mary. “A need was recognised to provide education on mental health awareness and insight to barbers, hairdressers, and therapists so they can best respond in these situations. As a result,  the Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT), launched a new Government regulated Level 1 Award in ‘Mental Health Awareness’.  We were proud to be part of the VTCT rollout and now offer this qualification alongside our students’ full training programme.  This new qualification helps our learners develop a knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing, allowing them to better understand the range of mental health conditions and how they affect the lives of individuals, as well as the impact on society and the world.”

Tyler concludes: “The Hair@theAcademy is unique and we are so lucky to have this amazing and specialised training programme in the heart of Exeter.  It’s been incredible to have the teaching salon continuing to support everyone throughout lockdown, which means our students aren’t having to deal with their emotions and stuff on their own.   They have somewhere to come and be supported in a place of education and I’m so proud to be part of this, as well as working with wonderful people in a safe and creative environment.“  

Due to additional funding Hair@theAcademy is offering FREE Level 2 Barbering courses

For more information or to book your place call Claire on 07818 022487