College Students Trading Places, “Apprentice” style!

A Valleys student has just been offered a coveted place to study English at the world-renowned University of Oxford, after college lecturers spotted her potential and placed her on the fast-track to A-level success.

Shannon Britton, 18, from Ferndale, had originally set her sights on a music management career and signed up for a BTEC vocational course at Coleg y Cymoedd, with an English AS- level alongside.

However, while studying on her English course, Shannon realised her passion for the subject and set her sights on studying English at University. Shannon’s academic potential was recognised by her lecturer, Sonia Lowe, who supported her decision to take on further A-levels, under the college’s fast-track scheme, and urged her to apply to Oxford’s English department.

Now she’s received a conditional offer to study English literature and language at Exeter College, Oxford, one of the university’s oldest and most prestigious colleges.

Shannon is pursuing English, law and history under Coleg y Cymoedd’s A-level fast-track programme, which sees her studying AS and A-levels in law and history simultaneously, in addition to her A-level in English literature and language.

She attributes her success to date to the continued support she has received from Sonia and other lecturers at the college, who have given their time to help her with the rigorous application process required by Oxford.

Shannon said: “It’s hard to explain the excitement I felt receiving the offer of a place at Oxford, but I genuinely think that my lecturers and family were even more excited than I was. My mother’s told everyone she can.

“Looking back it’s odd to see how my plans have changed during my time at Coleg y Cymoedd. I chose to attend the college because I felt I was ready to leave school, and be more independent. It felt like a step towards university.

“Oxford wasn’t my original plan, but my tutors’ support and guidance encouraged me in my decision to try the fast-track and apply.. It’s a lot of work but I’m committed to doing the best I can. The success has even inspired my sister to aim for Cambridge; I’d encourage anyone to apply, you never really know what can happen.”

Shannon will be among the first students to sit A-level exams at Coleg y Cymoedd’s dedicated A Level centre; part of the new £40 million Nantgarw campus which opened in September 2012.

The college operates in partnership with St David’s Catholic College Cardiff and Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic School in Pontypridd and, with over 600 learners, is now the largest A-level provider in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Caerphilly.

Commenting on Shannon’s Oxford offer, Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Shannon is a shining example of the young potential that exists in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Caerphilly. Her hard work and commitment to her studies, combined with the support she has received from her lecturers, encapsulates our college’s ethos and mission to strengthen the valleys through excellent education, skills and training.

“We wish Shannon every success in her exams and call upon all learners to use her inspiring story as the catalyst to pursue and achieve their own goals though education.”

Coleg y Cymoedd makes international visitors feel at home

Visually impaired Derrick Goodwin from the Rhymney Valley was told he wouldn’t last more than a month doing anything. Now the 60-year-old from Cefn Fforest in Blackwood is speaking out to help others realise they can overcome challenges.

Derrick was born with congenital cataracts and nystagmus, uncontrolled movement of the eyes, which causes blurred and reduced vision. By the age of two, he had undergone five operations to his eyes, and was sent to boarding school in Bridgend aged seven where he struggled with his education due to his fluctuating eyesight.

His employment officer at the specialist college in England which he later attended told him “you won’t last more than a month in a job”, but Derrick proved him wrong, spending the next 25 years working full-time in factories. After being forced to give up work due to being registered blind, Derrick set about picking up a new skill.

Now Derrick is inspiring others to make a change by learning a new skill, as part of New Year, New You – a Welsh Government campaign part-funded by the European Social Fund and run in partnership with NIACE Dysgu Cymru (the Welsh arm of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education).

New Year, New You is being launched at a time when people traditionally resolve to improve certain aspects of their lives, such as a change of career or taking up a new course. The campaign has been designed to make people in Wales more aware of the importance of having good skills, encourage them to think seriously about what training they need to improve their career prospects, and highlight that learning doesn’t have to be expensive.

Derrick lives with his wife Jill who is also visually impaired, and their two guidedogs Alisha, a black Labrador and Shane, a golden Labrador. Derrick said: “The factory doctor told me 17 years ago that I shouldn’t work anymore. A friend gave me a computer and I started teaching myself, learning how to use a word processor and eventually building computers.”

Derrick enrolled on a community ICT (information and communications technology) class at the local community centre, using a Jaws screen reader which translates what’s on the screen into a spoken voice.

After gaining OCN qualifications in Word processing, Access to the Internet, Letter Writing, Spreadsheets and Key Skills, he signed up for a mainstream course at the Ystrad Mynach Campus of Coleg y Cymoedd and was accepted onto the full-time ICT Systems Support course.

He now studies at Coleg y Cymoedd three times a week and is hoping to use his new skills by volunteering with the RNIB, the charity which supports blind and partially-sighted people.

“Because of my sight, getting a job would be difficult but I love being busy and I love a challenge. Maintaining and fixing computers is my passion and I want to use it to help other people who can’t afford shop prices.

I want to tell people there are ways around the challenges. Starting a course is a good first step, and there’s so much help available.”

Ken Skates, deputy minister for Skills and Technology, said: The New Year, New You campaign is about celebrating the enterprising individuals in Wales who take it upon themselves to learn a new skill, whether later on in life, following some adversity or simply because they want to make a change. Whether you’re learning for fun, looking to meet new people or thinking about a new career, picking up a new skill could take your life in an entirely new direction.”

College awarded prestigious British Council International Award

Coleg y Cymoedd sets the benchmark for other Welsh colleges to target waste and improve sustainability by reducing food waste across catering and hospitality services at all Campus sites.

Coleg y Cymoedd has become the first college in Wales and one of the first colleges in the UK to sign up to the WRAP Hospitality and Food Service Agreement to improve sustainability.

Signing the agreement means that staff and students in the college catering department, plus the hospitality establishments on each of the campuses will be involved in cutting down on food waste and packaging, using resources more efficiently and reducing waste.

The college has signed up to the agreement alongside a number of private companies across Wales and the UK from SME’s to large corporations. The catering and hospitality departments across the five campuses in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf will focus upon hitting new targets to improve sustainability.

It is hoped that signing up to the agreement will set an example both to other organisations in the sector and also raise awareness of sustainability issues to catering students. The plan for the future is to get students increasingly more involved with setting and implementing these high standards which are necessary to support them into future employment.

The college is part of a local and national WRAP Cymru steering group that will consistently work towards achieving set targets for reducing hospitality and food waste. Working with WRAP Cymru towards preventing waste and waste management the college plans to continue using green policies and procedures to consistently decrease their carbon footprint.

Director of Estates for the college Paul Davies stated: “Coleg y Cymoedd is committed to developing improvements which consider the three pillars of sustainability across all areas of the college business. We have been working alongside WRAP Cymru and other supporters to achieve waste target improvements towards zero waste. These targets include a reduction of food and associated packaging waste by 5% before the end of 2015, and an increase in the overall rate of food and packaging waste being recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion (AD) or composted to at least 70% before the end of 2015.”

Oh yes they did…make fabulous costumes

A college student has been touched by the kindness of her fellow students. Care student Lorran Davies explained how the students studying on the BTEC Health & Social Care course at the Rhondda Campus had come together to support her family.

Lorran’s son Loki who is 20 months old has Cystic Fibrosis and the community is rallying around to raise funds to purchase a physio vest for him. As part of their Welsh Baccalaureate qualification the students decided to use the Community Partnership module to support Loki.

Care students 17 year old Katie Devinett from Ton Pentre and 19 year old Carly Robins from Trealaw, have both been instrumental in organising activities to promote the worthy cause. Katie said” When we heard about little Loki we discussed how we could raise money for Loki’s physio vest and came up with loads of ideas”; Carly added “During our Welsh Bac sessions we drew up a calendar of activities, including raffles, cake stalls and bric a brac sales and can’t believe how generous people are – we’ve already raised over £200.

Course Tutor Eva Tewkesbury said “The students have been really enthusiastic with this activity as it’s a cause particularly close to their hearts; they can appreciate the benefits the vest would have for Loki.

Pitch perfect A-Level student headhunted by production company

For the second year running, students from across six colleges in South East Wales will have the opportunity to participate in the Trading Places ‘apprentice-style’ enterprise challenge. The project, launched in 2013, is led by First Campus, in partnership with Welsh Government and the Morgan Quarter, Cardiff.

Coordinated through the Regional Enterprise Hub, students from colleges across South East Wales, including Bridgend College, Coleg Gwent, Coleg Y Cymoedd, The College Merthyr Tydfil, St David’s Catholic College and Cardiff and Vale College will be flocking to Cardiff to sell a variety of products at the historic Morgan Quarter.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, products will be romantically themed, enabling shoppers to purchase last minute gifts for that special person in their life.

The challenge is spread over the course of three days, during which time students will gain first hand advice, skills and experience on developing and marketing a business strategy, including researching, negotiating, buying, promoting and selling their products.

To provide a real life enterprise experience, the Trading Places team have secured Number 1, The Royal Arcade for use as a pop-up shop on Thursday 13th February. In true ‘Apprentice’ style, each team will have to negotiate for the products they wish to sell in this pop-up shop and then work hard throughout the day to promote and sell these products to shoppers.

The pop-up shop will open for business from 9.45am – 5pm, commencing with a grand opening ceremony to mark the final phase of the challenge. Local businesses and members of the public are invited to come along and support this innovative venture and view the products on offer from each of the teams.

The winning team will be the one that displays the most effective business management skills and demonstrates the best teamwork throughout the course of the project.

Chris Bissex, Head of Enterprise and Employability at The College Merthyr Tydfil and lead of the South East Wales hub, said “Trading places provides a fantastic opportunity for the students to gain experience of effectively presenting and selling their products in a real life business situation”.

Rory Fleming, estates manager at the Morgan Quarter said: “The Morgan Quarter is proud to be associated with this initiative. Three quarters of our retailers are independent traders which gives us a uniqueness when compared with other shopping complexes.

“We wish all participants every success in the Trading Place Initiative and hopefully in years to come we will see several of these entrepreneurs on the high street.”

Care students send aid to families in need in the Philippines

Coleg y Cymoedd have been showcasing vocational expertise and providing cultural experiences to a group of visitors. The college recently welcomed a group of sixteen international visitors from Chongqing in central China.

In partnership with a number of other colleges across Wales, Coleg y Cymoedd provided the group made up of staff and students with both memorable educational experiences and cultural opportunities. The visit from learners and staff from six vocational colleges in Chongqing was organised by Colleges Wales (UK) International on behalf of the Wales-Chongqing FE Consortium.

The group were welcomed by Principal Judith Evans who gave a detailed presentation on the college and the further education sector in Wales before having a tour of the Ystrad Mynach campus and state of the art Nantgarw campus. The visitors met with key staff who gave an insight into the campuses, how the college is run, and student experiences.

The visitors took part in interactive classroom observations in a number of vocational areas from Aerospace to Catering, to display the range of vocational routes available at the college. The group were encouraged to get involved in the teaching sessions and particularly enjoyed trying on the costumes that had been produced by learners on Creative Industries courses. Coleg y Cymoedd learners on Business courses also gave an insightful presentation on Welsh Culture.

The students and staff from Chongqing were treated to local cuisines at the fantastic ‘Nant’ commercial restaurant in Nantgarw and Scholars Restaurant at the Ystrad Mynach campus. The group also had the opportunity to explore the city of Cardiff and be taken to cultural landmarks in the South Wales valleys including museums and Caerphilly Castle.

The varied programme for the visit was devised so staff and learners from the six different vocational area colleges could gain relevant experiences to take back to China. The visit is part of wider international plans and along with previous cultural exchanges, is helping to create stronger relationships with colleges overseas.

Local students receive blockbuster education from ‘star’ lecturer

Earlier this month Coleg y Cymoedd, along with four other education institutions from all over Wales, were recognised for their international work at the 2014 International Awards Ceremony.

The event was developed by the British Council in partnership with Welsh International Dimension in Education (WIDE), ColegauCymru and The National Centre for Languages CILT Cymru, and is supported by the Welsh Government.

These awards aim to raise the profile and reward achievement and excellence in the teaching of global citizenship, foreign languages and the international dimension in Welsh education. They recognise and acknowledge international work and best practice taking place in schools and colleges across Wales.

Tanya Bevan, Deputy Director British Council Wales said “Congratulations to all winning institutions. Welsh teachers and learners are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of having an international mind-set; these institutions have shown a commitment to international work, embracing dynamic and creative teaching practices. Such links allow our learners to connect, understand and consider different points of views, skills that are important for our future global citizens.”

Coleg y Cymoedd received the ColegauCymru Award for using the International Dimension to Improve College Effectiveness. At the awards, Curriculum Director for Technology Mel Jones stated “At last year’s ceremony we won the ColegauCymru International Award, recognising the work the college had undertaken to develop international links. Last year was the first time that FE colleges had been included in the awards; therefore I was delighted to receive the award for the second year running. Awards such as these encourage and inspire the staff to continue the links and increase opportunities which enhance the learning experience of our learners”.

Representing the learners at Coleg y Cymoedd, Evan Lloyd an apprentice with British Airways Maintenance Cardiff said “During my studies at Coleg y Cymoedd, I have been fortunate to visit Ravensberg, Germany; and spent two weeks placement at E.A.D.S., Freidrickhafen. It was a great experience and I learnt a lot about their employment and culture. The college’s International links such as the Leonardo project provide excellent opportunities for learners to experience European culture”.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.”

Kind hearted students offer some festive cheer

Students at the Nantgarw campus of Coleg y Cymoedd have again showcased their skills at this year’s Rhondda Cynon Taf pantomime, Peter Pan; which toured the County Borough over the festive period.

This is the third year that students studying on the Costume Construction for Screen & Stage Foundation Degree course at the college have worked in partnership with RCT Theatres to create a wardrobe of magical costumes for the cast. For months the dedicated students have been busy behind the scenes; working to tight deadlines, designing costumes for the performance.

Second year student Alicia Lording said “Producing the outfits for the cast has been hard work but very rewarding. It’s one thing making costumes but when they are for use in a pantomime you have to consider practical elements such as are they comfortable, washable and of course are they durable to last the duration of the pantomime season! I decided to make the Pearly Queen costume for Nanny McSmee and worked with Frank Vickery, the pantomime Dame, to ensure he was happy with the finished product.

Course Leader, Emma Highgate commented “I was delighted when Geoff Cripps contacted the college to ask if the students would be involved with the production of Peter Pan. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity as it gives the students the opportunity to work on a live project and to experience the challenges of working to extremely tight deadlines. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the project and were obviously proud of their hard work; this was evident from the smiles on their faces as they watched their costumes come to life on stage”.

Professional costume designer, Steve Denton who worked on this production stated “I could not believe the high standard of the finished costumes. They looked absolutely amazing on stage and I thought that all of the students were professional and showed a lot of potential as well as talent; considering that they are only in the second year of their degree.”

The pantomime certainly captivated the audience with the fabulous special effects, colourful costumes, songs and music and a handful of ‘fairy dust’ from Tinkerbell!


Wellington Street
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN


Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
CF15 7QY


Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
CF82 7XR

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