Coleg y Cymoedd learner experiences ‘Student life’ at Oxford

A group of beauty learners from Coleg y Cymoedd have been collecting Christmas presents for families who have been affected by domestic violence.

The learners have been involved with the ‘Don’t Look Back’ charity, which supports victims of domestic violence and their families, since the founder became a client at the college’s commercial salon.

Rachel Williams inspired the Level 3 Beauty Therapy learners with her incredible story of escaping domestic violence and using the experience to make a positive impact on other people’s lives.

One of the many projects the charity is involved with is supporting families in safe houses away from difficult domestic situations. The learners decided to make the festive season special for children living in these refuges by buying them Christmas presents.

25 year old Kelly Parker from Aberdare said “It has been fantastic to be involved with ‘Don’t Look Back’. After hearing the inspirational stories of what people go through, and what can be done to help, we all really wanted to be involved. It is lovely to know that as I am enjoying Christmas I have done something to help make someone else’s Christmas better”.

Tutor Nicola Davies said “I am so proud of the learners; they have exceeded themselves with both the amount of Christmas presents for the children and the thought that has gone into them”.

Rachel Williams founder of ‘Don’t Look Back’ said “I was totally speechless and overwhelmed by the generosity of these students. I was reduced to tears when they were delivered by their tutor Nicola. Thank you all so very much”

Pontypridd teen signed for Blues first team

A high achieving young woman from South Wales received full marks in A Level Law in the last academic year, the highest score across the whole of England and Wales.

Now, Shannon Britton, 19, from Ferndale, is about to complete her first term at Oxford University where she is studying English Literature, with her sights set on becoming a novelist.

Shannon, who studied A Level Law, English Literature and History at Coleg y Cymoedd, and achieved A*, A*, A respectively, has now been told her overall mark in Law was, in fact, the highest across England and Wales. However, Shannon’s remarkable achievements do not end there, she studied all three A Level subjects, AS and A Level combined, in only one year.

Originally setting her sights on a music production career, Shannon signed up for a BTEC vocational course at Coleg y Cymoedd, with an English AS Level alongside. However, while studying on the English course, Shannon’s academic potential was recognised by her tutor, Sonia Lowe, who urged her to take on further A Levels, under the college’s fast-track scheme.

Shannon said: “When I opened my A Level results, I was so concerned about the actual mark which would get me into Oxford, I didn’t look at my score. It was only when Ian Rees, who is Strategic Alliance Manager at the college, told me to look at my overall score that I realised I had achieved 100 per cent!

“My tutors’ support and guidance encouraged me to apply for Oxford, and although it is a lot of work, I am really enjoying university life.”

Recognising her outstanding achievements, Shannon has been invited to an A Level Awards ceremony, hosted by WJEC, the leading Welsh examination board. The event, which is taking place in Cardiff on 18th December, celebrates the highest achievers in Wales of the last academic year.

Commenting on Shannon’s success, Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Shannon is a shining example of the young potential that exists in Rhondda Cynon Taff. Achieving the highest marks in A Level Law demonstrates Shannon’s hard work and commitment to her studies. She really encapsulates the college’s ethos and mission to strengthen the valleys through excellent education, skills and training.

“We continue to wish Shannon every success in her future at Oxford, and call upon all learners to use her inspiring story as the catalyst to pursue and achieve their own goals through education.”

Shannon was among the first learners 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.

First World War poems inspire Cymoedd learners

18 year old Annie Holland from Pontypridd put her confirmed university place on hold after completing her A Levels at Coleg y Cymoedd, to volunteer in the Philippines.

Annie has been volunteering in children’s homes, hospitals and local communities as part of a Ministries Without Borders project between August and December. She has been keeping a blog detailing all of her amazing experiences. Here are a few short extracts:

The first extract – 30th July – One month to go!

Time has gone so quickly, it only seems like yesterday that I had my first idea that I would like to travel to the Philippines during my gap year. Things are coming together quite nicely. I am starting a blog to keep my family and friends up to date with what’s going on while I’m away. I know I haven’t left yet, but it’s all so exciting I just wanted to share my preparations with the social networking world.

August 17th – Two weeks to go!

I found out my results and that I will be going to my first choice: the University of East Anglia to study mental health nursing in September 2015, when I am home from the Philippines. I’M GOING TO UNI!

September 19th – Dumpsite: putting things into perspective

Yesterday I visited a rubbish tip, where MWBPi (Ministries Without Borders Phillipines) are going twice a week to have a Sunday school type meeting with the kids, with songs and games. They also hand out an evening meal to the children who come.

When you walk into where the people are living, the smell is the first thing that hits you. With rotting food, decaying rubbish and animal waste it really is awful. However the people don’t complain. The houses are built from things that they have found on the tip, and with the amount of wind and rain that comes in the wet season, the houses really don’t suffice.

It really made me stop and think; about my attitude towards my life- in comparison I live a luxurious life. In the UK, we all do. It’s not until you see these people first hand, and witness the conditions that they are living in and yet they still don’t complain that you realize we have nothing to moan about.

September 28th – One month in!

So, after a month of leaving home, I really feel like I have settled in here. Coming here was 100% the right thing to do. From spending time with the babies and children to visiting the local prison, everything I am doing here is impacting my life and other people’s lives.

October 10th – Observing a birth

Then around 9:15, we got called to the clinic to watch a birth. There were no complications, and the baby cried right away. She was so tiny; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so cute and lovely.

Watching a birth wasn’t at all how I expected it to be, nothing like one born every minute. After I left, I just couldn’t stop smiling. It was one the nicest things I have ever had the pleasure to experience, and I feel so privileged to have been able to observe the start of a new life.

13th November – Five in a bed: hospital visit

There were 10 in the bed and the little one said roll over, roll over.’ This nursery rhyme certainly came to mind when I visited the maternity ward in General Trias hospital. Three women and their three newborn babies sharing a bed, it makes it worse that they had just gone through a c section- so were attempting to recover from major abdominal surgery. We were told that in the one ward there were 40 beds and 98 patients, not including the babies and the partners of the women. She also said that this isn’t the most they have. Never complain about the standard of our lovely free health care in the UK, here they pay to share a bed with 4 other women.

Read the full blog of Annie’s once in a lifetime trip to the Philippines at:

Cymoedd success in women’s sport

For the second year running the Coleg y Cymoedd volleyball teams have won the Welsh Colleges Men’s and Women’s volleyball tournaments, beating off competition from the other colleges from Wales.

They have now qualified to represent Wales at the Association of Colleges Sport National Championships at Bath University in March.

The Welsh Colleges Volleyball Tournament was held at the House of Sport in Cardiff as part of the Welsh Colleges championships which saw over 1000 learners competing in eleven different sports events in preparation for the British championships.

Organised by Welsh Colleges Sport, the tournament comprised players from across colleges in Wales participating in a range of events competing to be put through to the British final in various sports.

Learners involved are part of the A Level programme based at the Nantgarw campus of Coleg y Cymoedd, which is offered in partnership with St. David’s Catholic Sixth Form College and Cardinal Newman RC Comprehensive School.

17 year old Sara Phipps from Tonteg, who is captain of the girls team said: “This was a great experience and a fun day. We are all very excited to compete at the National Championships in Bath in March and hopefully can do even better than last year”.

A Level Physical Education tutor Dawn Webb said: “Both teams played brilliantly and showed determination throughout the day. Last year’s British Finals were excellent filled with drama superb volleyball. I can’t wait to go this year and hopefully compete for medals.”

“The boys Volleyball team players: Joe Dacey, Shaun Perry, Jack Hartly, Aled Palmer, Joe Psaila, and Jarrad Morgan.

The girls Volleyball team players: Sara Phipps, Jess Ogden, Sinead Kirwan, Sophie Lewis, Bethan Williams, Molly Howell, Nia Higgins, Jess Newsway and Tyler Perring.

Coleg y Cymoedd’s team of budding entrepreneurs awarded prize in National competition

A Coleg y Cymoedd learner was successful in gaining a place on the prestigious UNIQ programme at Oxford University earlier this year; the UNIQ summer schools are an access programme, which are open to learners studying in their first year of A Levels.

The programme aims to give learners a realistic view of Oxford student life, with preference given to applicants who come from schools and areas with little or no history of successful application to Oxford.

AS Level learners Megan Chambers (17) from Merthyr Tydfil was delighted to have been selected for one of the 1000 places out of approximately 4000 applications this year. She spent a week living at Hertford College, Oxford; attending lectures, seminars and workshops about applying to Oxford. Learners also enjoyed a variety of social activities included in the programme.

To secure their place the learners were asked to submit personal statements outlining their interest in their chosen course and their reasons for attending the UNIQ. Staff members at the college were also approached to endorse the learner applications.

Megan who secured a place on the Human Sciences course said “It was such a privilege to attend the UNIQ summer school this year. I never thought Oxford was even an option for me but the staff at the college made me realise my full potential and being accepted onto the summer school has brought me one step closer. I’m studying Maths, Chemistry and Biology at A Level and so Human Sciences was an ideal course for me to do at the summer school. I feel I was accepted onto the summer school due the grades I achieved at GCSE which shows I am committed to working to my full potential. My personal statement really highlighted my enthusiasm in attending UNIQ. This was an amazing opportunity and I enjoyed every minute”.

Congratulating the learners Strategic Alliance Manager Ian Rees stated “I am delighted that Megan secured a place on this year’s summer school at Oxford University. Opportunities such as this are invaluable, providing an insight in to university-life at one of the most prestigious universities.

At Coleg y Cymoedd we are proud of the choice of A Levels we offer, together with the excellent teaching and support from the staff. Given their motivation they will hopefully follow in the footsteps of one of our learners who this year became our first learner to secure a place at Oxford to read English”.

Up-cycled boutique chic proves a catwalk hit

A talented teenager from Pontypridd has been signed by the Cardiff Blues first team, after he caught the eye of the coaches following a flair for the sport from a young age.

After success at the prestigious Blues training academy, Jarrod Evans, 18, will join the first team in the esteemed company of players such as Sam Warburton and Adam Jones.

While studying at Coleg y Cymoedd, Jarrod attended the Blues Academy where he developed his rugby skills under the watchful eye of expert coaches. The academy also ensured the learners were prepared academically should a career in rugby not materialise. The learners were encouraged to develop team work skills and determination which will support them to succeed in any future employment, professional rugby or university.

Speaking of his new appointment to the Blues first team, Jarrod said, “Rugby has always been special to me. I’ve played since a very young age and made so many good friends through it. At Coleg y Cymoedd we had a very strong squad and played some tough opposition from other colleges, which was great experience.

“The coaches kept us focussed on our fitness and the game and also encouraged us with the academic part of the course, stressing the importance of a good education. When I was approached by Cardiff Blues to sign up for them I couldn’t believe it, I’d never expected at 18 years to be in the squad playing alongside some of Wales’ greats – it’s a dream come true”.

<Jarrod’s passion for rugby started at his local club, where he has made his way from mini and junior ranks, to eventually play for the Pontypridd first team. The fly half’s flair and ability on the pitch have not gone unnoticed, as Jarrod has already been capped for Wales at under 18 level.

Vice Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd, John Phelps added “The college is proud to work in partnership with Cardiff Blues and is delighted that one of our learners has signed up for their regional first team squad. As a rugby fan I followed the squad since we formed the academy side at the college and was impressed with the standard of play and the commitment of the young guys.

“Jarrod, along with other first rate college players such as Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Matthew Marley and Rob Lewis, was always a key player for the college team and shone on the pitch; we wish him well, together with the others who move on from the college team and will certainly follow their careers with interest.”

Richard Hodges, defence coach and WRU performance for the Blues said, “Our coaches kept a close eye on Jarrod during his time at Coleg y Cymoedd and throughout the Blues Academy, and saw the potential in his game. His dedication and commitment is second to none and I’m sure he has an exciting future ahead of him.We are delighted he accepted our invitation to join the Blues”.

College recognised for improving young lives

A group of talented learners from Coleg y Cymoedd took part in a local art exhibition, which was supported by the Royal Welsh and the Royal Comrades Association, to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

The ‘In the Course of Time’ exhibition was held at St Elvan’s Church, Aberdare for two weeks in November and displayed the work of over 40 local artists and craftsmen/women, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and other craftwork including quilting and fibre art.

The learners who are studying on the Level 2 Technical Diploma in Art & Design course at the Nantgarw campus produced a collection of artwork based on the Poetry of Patrick Jones.

Tutor Paul Lavagna said” Outcomes in this section of the exhibition have been produced by the learners, as interpretations to the lyrics of selected poems from Patrick Jones.

The learners listened and brainstormed the lyrics, then researched and developed ideas to produce outcomes that reflect their own interpretations of a poem, or parts of a poem and the meanings in them”.

Learner Rhonwen Powell, 18 from Tonyrefail was proud to have his work included in the exhibition, Rhonwen explained “When our tutor, Paul Lavagna asked us if we would like to put forward any of our work for this event I jumped at the chance, not only for the public to see and hopefully appreciate my work but I felt it was a worthy event to support.

A memorial concert featuring music from the Llwydcoed Brass Band and a book launch by local author and historian Geoffrey Evans were included in the programme of the exhibition.

One of the main organisers of the exhibition Christina Davies said “This exhibition has been a year in the planning and a definite buzz has built up with people really looking forward to seeing what local artists have come up with, it is great to see the student’s work which is so accomplished and vibrant”.

Learners who exhibited their art work included Sara Delaitre, Philip O Brien, Ffion Stanton, Molly Osbourne, Luke Belson, Rhiannon Rhodes, Rhonwen Powell.

Tutors transform for terrifying Zombie Run

A group of sixteen female learners from the Nantgarw and Ystrad Mynach campuses of Coleg y Cymoedd travelled to Merthyr Tydfil F.C.’s football ground for this year’s Welsh Colleges Football Festival. They joined over one hundred players who had travelled from all over Wales to take part in the event.

The Festival gave the Welsh Colleges coaches an ideal opportunity to identify potential talent to be included in the Welsh Colleges National Team, with two Cymoedd players catching their eye.

Both Abbie Davies and Alisha Northmore have been provisionally selected for the Welsh Colleges Squad. Abbie Davies (18) from Bargoed is currently studying on the National Diploma in Sport at the Ystrad Mynach campus and has set her sights on a career in Sports Coaching. Abbie said “I was really pleased to be provisionally selected for the squad and can’t wait to get started”.

17 year old team mate Alisha Northmore from Cardiff is also enrolled on the National Diploma in Sport at the Nantgarw campus and she has ambitions to be a secondary School Teacher .Alishia commented “pleased and honoured to be considered to play for the Welsh Colleges Team”.

Tutor Mark Davies who trains the learners and accompanied the squad to the Festival said “It was a good experience for our learners, many of who were playing competitive football for the first time. The squad battled hard and displayed some promising football skills, despite the weather conditions; including hail and thunder! All learners demonstrated true teamwork and sportsmanship and were a credit to the college.

The College has always boasted strong male football and rugby teams; hopefully this is just the beginning of female sport at the college. I hope that more learners will be inspired by the success of Abbie and Alisha to get involved in the future.”

The national Welsh College’s Team trials will be held in November; if Abbie and Alisha are selected to play for the Squad, they will have the opportunity to ‘earn a cap’; playing against teams such as Australia and England.

Learner progresses from Foundation Learning to a PHD

A team of budding entrepreneurs from Coleg y Cymoedd who developed Monkey Nuts, a mobile van selling healthy food, have been awarded £1000 in national enterprise competition, the Edge Challenge.

Future Foods, made up of Liam Williams (17) from Llantrisant, Robert Haycox (17) from Ferndale, Lauren Quinn (19) from Tonypandy and Flynn Randell (17) from Pontypridd, submitted a detailed and viable business proposal including financial and marketing plans, alongside hopefuls from all over the country.

Three teams and six individual entries were shortlisted and they were all invited to pitch their ideas to a panel in London.

Following this, the final two teams and three individuals presented their business ideas at The Skills Show in Birmingham – and Future Food’s innovative idea and excellent business sense won them their prize.

Card Stack, a team, from Barking & Dagenham College were the team winners, with their digital business cards idea.

The individual prizes were scooped by David Humpston (19), Jack Crofts (17) and Gavin Bell (20).

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, awarded Future Foods with their prize, which will go towards developing their business plan.

The Edge Challenge was launched last year by independent education charity, the Edge Foundation in partnership with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and the Gazelle Colleges Group. It aims to help young entrepreneurs get their business start-up off the ground.

Runners up Future Foods say: We’re so excited to have won a prize in the Edge Challenge! We can’t wait to use the £1000 to get us up and running as a real-life business. We are so happy we made the most of this opportunity and would definitely encourage others to get involved next year.”

Jan Hodges OBE, CEO of independent education charity, the Edge Foundation, says: “I whole-heartedly congratulate Future Foods on their achievement today in our second Edge Challenge competition. At Edge, we believe there are many paths to success for young people to take and becoming an entrepreneur is certainly an excellent and exciting route to choose. I wish the team all the very best of luck in the future.”

Peter Jones CBE, Founder of the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy says: “Here at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, we have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the rollout of the Edge Challenge, delivered by the Edge Foundation for the second year running, in partnership with the Gazelle Colleges Group. I am delighted that former Peter Jones Enterprise Academy students have been awarded first, second and third place in the individual enterprise competition.

“Future Foods are deserving winners. I hope that future Academy students will be inspired by their success and gain the confidence and drive to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

“It is great to see there is a special enterprise zone at this year’s Skills Show. They have rightfully put entrepreneurship at the top of the agenda as a real and tangible focus, which is something I wholeheartedly back.”

Fintan Donohue, CEO Gazelle Colleges Group, says: “We are delighted to work for the second year running with our partner the Edge Foundation and our colleagues from the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy to make the Edge Challenge a success.

“Many of the young people in the competition may never actually take forward their own businesses but the experimentation with this start-up competition develops a mind-set that will strengthen their employment prospects.

“At Gazelle, enterprise competition is becoming an integral part of student experience. The winners of today’s competition, are the role models that will help create a culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship in the colleges they come from.”

Judith Evans, Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, says: “As Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd I am delighted that our young catering entrepreneurs are runners up in this prestigious competition. We are keen to give encouragement to all learners and ensure that they are equipped with the skills that they need to succeed in business. The learners are highly motivated and have taken this challenge seriously. I congratulate them for their success in the finals.”

Watch Future Foods in the Edge Challenge here:


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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