ESD case study: The award-winning Michaeljohn Training School

Introduction by Charlotte Bonner, National Head of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Welcome to the third blog in our series of case studies, drawn from the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) latest report: Leadership for ESD in the Further Education Curriculum’.

In our previous blog, we learnt about how Burnley College use an organisation-wide approach to bringing sustainability to life. You can read about their wide range of scenario-based learning and cross-discipline projects to enhance their learners experience of ESD.

In this case study, we join Michaeljohn Training School (MJTS) in Manchester, as they share their story of weaving sustainability into their hairdressing and barbering programs. Through innovative activities that demonstrate the vital importance of sustainability, not just for the planet but also for the running of a profitable business, MJTS is shaping future salon owners to be responsible, ethical and successful entrepreneurs.

This training academy recently achieved the Gold Award in the Environmental Business Pledge, an initiative developed by Groundwork, the Environment Agency and Manchester City Council. The case study below has been drawn from conversations with Lesley McCormack, Managing Director, Gabriella McCormack, Education Director, Craig Anthony, Executive Education Manager and Kingston Bell, General Training Manager.

Hairdressing and Barbering at Michaeljohn Training School

Michaeljohn Training School (MJTS) is collaborating with an awarding organisation to focus on the creation of sustainable development modules and qualifications for apprentices, educators, and employers. MJTS has achieved the Environmental Business Pledge Gold Award.

Training ethical business owners of the future

Woman with plait hair

MJTS recognises the increasing need to promote positive change and environmental awareness. The training academy uses enrichment to provide opportunities for apprentices to broaden understanding, whilst also developing Maths, English, critical thinking, entrepreneurial skills and how to work independently or as part of a team. Part of this is to encourage volunteering and charity fundraising, reinforcing the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with apprentices. The academy and its staff recognise the importance of training its apprentices to become responsible and ethical business owners of the future.

Apprentices develop an understanding of the need for salons across the UK to improve sustainable development and practices. MJTS promotes a lifelong approach to sustainable development and ambitions that make a difference.

An environmental pledge

The MJTS Environmental pledge and goals are embedded into the core values and curriculum of learning. The school recognises it is on a journey to sustainability and has looked in detail at this in the hair, beauty and wellness industry and at how it can be demonstrated through its work with apprentices.

A strong focus is placed on recyclable properties of equipment and resources, including an awareness of how the Covid-19 pandemic has escalated the amount of waste associated with the industry, particularly the significant use of essential Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). In response to this, initiatives such as recycling bins for facemasks have been introduced.

Long-term commercial benefits to sustainability

In addition to the core industry subjects, MJTS also delivers sustainability through the teaching of English and Maths to its apprentices. Again, the focus of this is on apprentices being the salon owners of the future, highlighting to them through interactive lessons of the long-term commercial benefits of sustainable practices.

This starts with the importance of turning off lights in the salon, to more complex ideas and practices which are used to contextualise the maths content. The teacher relates the learning to calculations, profit margins and financial forecasting and the benefits of embedding sustainable practices and habits. The teacher uses play money to help illustrate to the apprentices the impact of sustainable business practices, using the exercise to illustrate profit or, conversely, waste, by literally throwing this ‘money’ away.

Further areas of focus the apprentices engage in include fast fashion – encouraging apprentices to make good choices in their purchasing habits and understand how this impacts the environment and the presence of modern slavery in some areas of the industry. Apprentices look at how high street brands are increasingly promoting recycled clothing. Apprentices consider exchange and revamping approaches to retail are also encouraged to donate unwanted items to charity.

Sustainable products and tools

Education & Training Foundation apprentices at MJTS also look at the procurement and promotion of sustainable products, tools and equipment, and how to reduce and monitor energy costs. MJTS links with the Eco Champions scheme in Greater Manchester.

MJTS also incorporates sustainability into the health and wellbeing curriculum. For example, learners look at how to develop a healthy balanced lifestyle and explore exercise and nutritional events such as Vegan Day.

Building learner confidence

It’s important to the academy that apprentices are confident and knowledgeable enough to raise and implement sustainable ideas and practices in salons so that they can make positive contributions to fundraising, such as supporting the homeless in Greater Manchester. The apprentices comment on how they have introduced recycling and monitoring of product waste, refilling shampoo and conditioners with refill packs in order to cut the use of plastic bottles and the use of online booking systems to cut down on the use of paper.

Learners’ feedback

The impact on the apprentices of the organisation’s holistic approach to sustainable development is significant. Here are some of the things they said about the teaching:

“I still turn taps off between shampoos all these years later and it’s because of that lesson.”

– MJTS Learner

“It was so shocking when we actually threw the money in the bin! I can’t believe what a big impact small changes can have.”

– MJTS Learner

“When I am contributing to the environment, it makes me feel like I am making a change to my local community. Recycling bins should be more widely available.”

– MJTS Learner

You can read the full case study and report.



Read all case studies in this series:


For more information on ESD at the ETF, please visit our website.

Share this article: