NPA Hairdressing Technical Skills

NPA Hairdressing Technical Skills

National Progression Awards (NPAs) assess a defined set of skills and knowledge in specialist vocational areas, linked to National Occupational Standards.

The NPA in Hairdressing Technical Skills at SCQF level 5 introduces learners to the skills in cutting, colouring and styling that are needed by anyone seeking work in the hairdressing sector.

The qualification is available through SQA Centres.

Why deliver this qualification

NPAs are trusted because they are developed by practitioners from industry and are supported by the relevant sector skills council (SSC). Industry has recognised that the qualification fits the job.

Although the content of the NPA is not specifically designed as online or open learning, there is scope for a blended learning approach embracing traditional methods with e-learning and e-assessment.

Who does this qualification suit

The NPA in Hairdressing Technical Skills at SCQF level 5 is intended for candidates with little or no prior experience of hairdressing. The main target groups are:

  • candidates who have recently left school
  • adult returners who have decided to re-enter the education system and/or perhaps undertake training for employment in the hairdressing sector
  • people in employment who have experience of working in the hairdressing industry but are seeking formal recognition of their skills


While entry to the award is at the discretion of the centre. However, it is expected that candidates will demonstrate the potential to acquire and/or use the necessary level of Core Skills to undertake the course. The table below gives recommended entry levels of Core Skills, for guidance purposes.

Core Skill SCQF level

Recommended entry

Potential exit




Information and Communication Technology






Problem Solving



Working with Others



It is important to note that when recruiting candidates it is the responsibility of centres to fully comply with the EU Directive and be aware of the Pre-16 Restrictions set out by HABIA, the sector skills council for the hair and beauty industry.

The NPA therefore cannot be delivered to pre-16 candidates as Units involving cutting and hair colouring are available to post-16 candidates only. Further details are available in the access sections of individual Unit specifications.


Candidates who successfully complete the NPA may progress to employment within the hairdressing sector as trainees/assistants in a range of key technical disciplines. However, it is anticipated that for candidates without prior industry experience, the level 5 NPA is more likely to act as a precursor to further study, such as the NPA in Creative Hairdressing at SCQF level 6, with eventual progression to employment.


Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority will have to come forward for approval and should contact SQA’s Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA’s general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Guide to Approval.

How to assess

Due to the nature of the content of the Units, approaches to delivery and assessment will largely be in the practical environment. There is an opportunity to adopt a blended learning approach that will integrate knowledge-based learning with development of practical skills through application. However, in the case of practical activities, e-assessment is not appropriate. In these cases, other forms of evidence could be adopted such as video recording. Where alternative methods are used, staff in centres must consider how they will ensure the authentication of candidate evidence.

The focus of the NPA is candidate-centred and predominantly practical based. Candidates will benefit from listening and watching demonstrations by lecturers. Mannequin heads may be used for initial skills development. Candidates should move on to clients for practice before summative assessment takes place. All assessments must be performed on clients. The use of mannequin heads for assessment purposes is not appropriate.

While it is essential that candidates develop knowledge and understanding in relation to specific terminology and techniques, it should be emphasised that being able to bring various terms and techniques together to produce complete and personalised finished styles is fundamental when cutting, colouring and styling hair, if it is to reflect industry standards.

This also applies to the time taken to perform certain tasks. For example, hair colouring must be performed in a timescale which reflects current commercial standards. Where assessments are timebound this is noted in individual Unit specifications.

The use of photographic evidence is intended to motivate candidates to aim for the highest standard, and to encourage them to reflect and evaluate their own work, but it is not required as an instrument of assessment.

Qualification content and delivery tools

Qualification structure

This National Progression Award in Hairdressing Technical Skills consists of three mandatory Units and 6 optional Units at SCQF level 5.

NPA in Hairdressing Technical Skills at SCQF level 5 (508 KB)