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Salon culture straightens out latecomers

The desire to share beauty secrets has transformed two pupils from class latecomers with behaviour problems to star pupils who helped to set up a school hair and beauty salon.

Their east London school has turned the problem of girls spending too much time plaiting hair in corridors and being late for class on its head.

And this week Sukhvinder Kaur and Louise Stokes, pupils at Sarah Bonnell, a language college in Stratford, were hailed as champions by school standards minister David Miliband for their work managing the salon.

In the week before the salon opened, the teenagers who used to arrive late for class, distracted by their desire to share beauty secrets, came into school at 8am every day.

Where they had once appeared angry, they now became assertive, honing the skills they needed to manage the salon, which offers mendhi, corn-row plaiting and manicures.

Their education makeover was so effective that 15-year-old Sukhvinder's parents thought they had a new daughter.

Sukhvinder said: "I have changed in many ways, my behaviour and my work and how I was around the school. I feel inspired to do good things."

Louise, 16, who is assistant head girl, said: "This has given me a focus in life, with what I want to do when I leave school. It has helped me calm down a lot in my behaviour towards others."

Diana Whyte and Rebecca Nakimuli, both 15, now also work in the salon, which charges pound;1 to pound;2 for services and where "staff" are paid pound;2 a day.

Sarah Bonnell set up the salon, run with two other pupils, using money from the Government's Excellence in Cities programme to raise achievement in deprived areas, as well as funding from Busines East Enterprise.

Other Excellence in Cities champions were:

Joseph D'Costa, from Whittingham community school in Walthamstow, east London; Helen Johnson, an educator from the Life Education Centre, Bradford; Kyle Watt from Cranford Park school in Hayes, Middlesex;

Kimberley Thorpe, a peer tutor and young carer from Nottingham; Shabana Zaman from West Gate community college, Newcastle; Gemma Lander from St Angela's school in Forest Gate, east London;

Hannah Connors from the William Morris academy, Hammersmith, west London;

Michael Coleman from Palatine high, Blackpool; Daniel Cannon from the Bexley academy, south-east London; and Adam Sholes, a gifted and talented consultant and mentor from Tameside.

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