Welsh learners enjoy trip of a lifetime to world-famous science research centre

A group of learners from the South Wales Valleys have experienced the ultimate out of classroom lesson with a once in a lifetime trip to one of the world’s leading scientific research centres.

A group of 26 learners from Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus, visited the renowned CERN centre in Switzerland to learn about the work being done at the institution and to see the iconic Large Hadron Collider – the multi-billion-pound machine which simulates the moment following the ‘Big Bang’ – in action up close.

 Their visit followed a trip made earlier this year by 24 physics teachers from across Wales, including Anthony Mitchell, a physics lecturer from Coleg y Cymoedd, who were selected to tour the prestigious centre in Geneva to explore some of the latest discoveries in particle physics.

Carys Arianwen Haf, a 20-year-old learner from Llantrisant, was one of the lucky individuals invited to attend the exclusive trip. Having always wanted to visit CERN, Carys, who is currently studying A-Levels in biology, chemistry and mathematics, jumped at the opportunity when the outing was offered to those studying science at Coleg y Cymoedd’s A-level Centre.

Carys said: “I was extremely excited to visit CERN. It’s not an opportunity that comes around every day and the experience was so interesting. I’m fascinated by particle physics and as I don’t study physics in college, the visit allowed me to learn new and exciting things that I would not have otherwise known. It also allowed me to attend workshops that I would not have been able to if I had gone as a member of the public.”

The trip presented learners with the rare opportunity to tour CERN’s state-of-the-art facilities, attend workshop sessions, hands on physics experiments and meet with researchers and engineers to hear about the work being done at the centre, and its impact on the science of everyday life. Aside from seeing the world-famous Large Hadron Collider up close, a highlight for the learners was a cloud chamber workshop, where they observed cosmic particles and natural radiation visible using materials and equipment, such as dry ice, which are difficult to obtain for classroom use.

The two-day trip also saw the learners visit Lake Geneva, the botanical gardens and the History of Science Museum, giving them chance to learn about a range of exciting topics while also exploring and appreciating the architecture and culture of Geneva itself.

Carys, who now hopes to study biology at university, with future ambitions to pursue a career in biological research, says that her experience at CERN has only strengthened her resolve to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) research.

She said: “It’s rare to see female representation in any field of science, let alone in research, and so seeing women working as physics researchers at CERN was extremely inspiring. It reminded me that it is possible for women to achieve success in the academic fields that I am hoping to get into one day myself and has motivated me to work hard and attain my ambitions.”

Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “We are committed to providing our learners with opportunities to take part in a wide range of educational experiences, which we hope will inspire them to realise the career paths that are available to them. We hope that seeing the incredible CERN research facility first hand and meeting with its experimental researchers, will influence these young people to consider careers in the sciences. Few people can say they have visited CERN and this unique trip will not only provide our learners with a memorable experience, but equip them with added skills and knowledge that will help them stand out in their future endeavours.”

Adult Learning Making a Difference in Wales

A special presentation sponsored by Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, was held at the Senedd to celebrate the Agored Cymru Access to Higher Education Learner of the Year Awards.

In 2015-16 over 1800 adult learners in Wales enrolled onto an Agored Cymru Access to Higher Education Diploma, a national qualification recognised by all universities in Wales as equivalent to three A Levels. The Diploma is specifically designed to provide adults with an opportunity to prepare for and progress to higher education. 

Access to Higher Education Manager at Agored Cymru, Victor Morgan said, Access to Higher Education plays a very important role in adult learning in Wales

“Access to Higher Education attracts extraordinary adult learners from diverse backgrounds. Often learners have overcome major personal, social and economic barriers to achieve the Diploma and to fulfil their aspirations of progressing to university”.

Now in its sixth year, the prestigious Access to Higher Education Learner of the Year Awards celebrates the amazing achievements of Access learners across Wales. This year’s winners and runner – up are no exception.

Victor Morgan continues: “I would personally like to offer my warmest congratulations to the winners and runner – up of this year’s Access to Higher Education Learner of Year Awards and to all those learners who have worked so hard to achieve an Access to Higher Education Diploma”.

Coleg y Cymoedd learner, Chris Major won runner-up in the ‘Outstanding Commitment to Study’ category, and was presented with his award by the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies:

“One of the Key messages from the Programme for Government is that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve their potential. Access to Higher Education Diplomas provide a second chance for learners to excel.  This afternoon we are honouring three learners whose achievements exemplify why these Diplomas are so important”.

The Agored Cymru Access to Higher Education Diploma successfully addresses the need to enhance the workforce in vocational areas central to the Welsh economy. In 2015-16 in Wales, 1,080 learners were registered on Access to Higher Education Diplomas related to the health and social care sector (58% of all registrations).

There are 16 Diplomas available across a variety of subject areas, many of which are linked to vocational areas where there is a particular demand for specialist skills.

The latest Diploma to be developed allows adult learners to pursue careers within the financial sector via the new Access to Higher Education Diploma (Financial Services), which has received endorsements from key Welsh employers as well as higher education providers.

In 2014-15, 83% of all learners completing an Agored Cymru Access to Higher Education Diploma progressed to a higher education course in Wales.

Executive Chair of Agored Cymru, John Graystone, said: ” Adult learning is vital in creating a stable business environment and ensuring continued economic growth in Wales.

“Everyone involved in adult education recognises the impact that learning can have on the lives of individuals, families, communities, businesses and the Welsh economy.

“As the awarding body of choice, we are thrilled to have this opportunity to recognise and celebrate adult learning in Wales.”  

Cymoedd learners played their part in the successful XScream event

The recent success of the XScream experience at the Rhondda Heritage Park was supported by a creative group of Coleg y Cymoedd learners who have become experts in the production of zombies and other gruesome characters.

Tutor, Jane Beard has years of experience working on the television as a special effects artist and the learners studying on the HND Creative Production Arts course, at the Nantgarw campus, are certainly benefitting from her skills and knowledge.

Over the years, the college has been involved with numerous events throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf, including previous Halloween events and a zombie run. Therefore when approached by the Event Organiser to get involved with this year’s XScream event, the learners jumped at the opportunity.

The not for the fainthearted XScream took place in the Rhondda Heritage Park and featured live actors, special effects and horrific shocks; as visitors made their way along the dark abandoned tracks of the now deserted mines.

Tutor Jane Beard said ’This was another not to be missed opportunity for our learners.  The course provides the learners with the skills and knowledge of special effects but events such as this help put the skills into practice.  It will give the learners the confidence to secure work placements within the BBC and other production companies.

Learner, Abbie Williams said ‘It was fantastic to be part of the XScream event and help in creating the event that the public has loved so much. I am thoroughly enjoying the course and I’ve already learnt so much.  It was a real challenge, working to strict deadlines, but great fun too and it will enhance my CV’.

Helen Gibbons, Eventful one of the organisers of the event said” Learners from Coleg y Cymoedd, played a significant role in making the X Scream event a tremendous success and we were delighted to welcome 4000 visitor through the doors over 2 weekends.  The Make Up learners had a mammoth task to make 25+ actors look horrific every night in an hour and the Drama students were talented and competent performers, who fully embraced the roles they were given and greatly enhanced the visitor experience.  All the learners are a true credit to the College, they were talented, disciplined and professional – a pleasure to work with and we will not hesitate to work with them again soon”. 


Learners given the opportunity to work at Skills Cymru

Coleg y Cymoedd Business learners were given the opportunity of real life work experience at the recent Skills Cymru event which took place in the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff.  This is the fourth year the BTEC Business Department has been fortunate enough to provide ambassadors for the event.

The learners, all studying on the BTEC Business course at the Nantgarw campus took part in an interview process to secure the positions of ambassadors.  The role of the learners is to engage with the thousands of young people and students who visit the event over the two day period, to learn about the huge range of careers, training and advice available in Wales.

This experience offers the college learners the opportunity to gain an insight into the Events employment routes and several past learners who have been involved have gone on to study Events Management at university.

Natalia Crees who is studying on the 2nd year of the BTEC Business course said ”Skills Cymru was an amazing experience that built my confidence – I would advise anyone to take part”. First year BTEC learner Amy Gunning also recommended the experience stating “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it has helped me decide what I plan to do with my future”.

Kim Purnell, Course tutor said”We are thrilled that our learners have once again had the opportunity to act as Ambassadors at Skills Cymru.  This is a fantastic opportunity for them to gain valuable work experience and have the chance to be involved with such a high profile event”.

Mark Lancett from Skills Cymru commented “As usual, the Coleg y Cymoedd students were really great young people who carried out their roles very conscientiously. Polite and enthusiastic, they were excellent ambassadors for the college and helped make the event a real success.” 

Cymoedd learners fundraise for Breast Cancer

Two learners from Coleg y Cymoedd were involved in a fundraising activity for Breast Cancer at the ASDA store, Tonypandy.

Crisian White and Courtney Mason, both studying on the Level 2 Hairdressing course at the Rhondda campus contributed to the raising of over £1,000 by colouring the hair of a member of staff, pink.

Cashier, Nash had set himself a target of £1,000 but was delighted to exceed the target by £300.

Both learners were pleased with the finished result, Crisian commented ‘We are both delighted to have played a part in raising funds for such a worthy cause; it’s a fantastic result and well worth it.  Nash was an excellent sport”.

Course tutor, Teresa Ridley Morgan said” As a college we are always eager to support worthy causes and our learners have been involved in lots of fundraising activities. Both Crisian and Courtney were keen to get involved with this activity as part of the fundraising activities at the ASDA store”.

Rhondda Cynon Taff Theatres pantomime – Dick Whittington

Coleg y Cymoedd learners have been involved in bringing that magical touch to the young children in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

For the sixth year, a group of second year learners studying on the Foundation Degree Costume Construction for Screen Stage course at the college have been selected to cut and construct the outfits for this year’s Rhondda Cynon Taff Theatres pantomime – Dick Whittington.

The level 5 learners from the Nantgarw campus have been working closely with the costume designer Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones to realise his designs for the entire production. Learners have been constructing costumes for stars Di Botcher (Aunty Brenda-Stella), Frank Vickery (Welsh Play Write) & Johnny Tudor (Gavin & Stacy).

The staff, Emma Embling & Caroline Thomas and learners have had held regular fittings with the performer to discuss the requirements of their outfits.

The specialist course at the college focuses on the cut and costume construction skills, which provides the learners with the skills to translate their creative ideas into professional finished costumes.

Chloe Gauci, who is studying on the course said ‘I have really enjoyed this project and I cannot wait to see my outfits in action on the stage.  It has been a challenge to produce outfits for the characters that are not only eye catching but durable for the activities undertaken throughout the pantomime, plus the need for them to last for two months of continual wear and laundering.  I chose to make the Dame Sarah costume and I must thank Frank Vickery for his patience – I think the outfits will look amazing on the stage.

Course tutor, Emma Embling said,” The collaboration between the course and Rhondda Cynon Taf has gone from strength to strength over the years. The learners are given an excellent insight into the industry which they wish to enter upon completing their degree. The learners work extremely hard, from start to finish, to produce these outstanding costumes. At the end of the process they are able to add this production to their CV’s and portfolio’s. Working on these types of productions puts the learners ahead of other graduates when they start applying for work.

Angela Gould, Company Manager, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC said- The costume learners at Coleg y Cymoedd are professional in their approach in everything that they do for us. Our relationship with the staff and the learners on the costume course has grown over the years and developed into something quite special. The learners are a credit to their course and the profession. 

Next milestone met at multimillion pound campus in Aberdare

The next phase of construction has been complete at the site of our ultra-modern college in Aberdare, set to revolutionise further education and skills training for hundreds of learners in South Wales.

The £22 million Coleg y Cymoedd campus in the heart of Aberdare officially celebrated its ‘topping out’ ceremony, signifying the point when the entire structure of the campus has been built, before the eventual ‘kitting out’ of the inside of the new college takes place.


Before the official opening in September 2017, contractors will work to prepare the campus for the extended range of courses soon to be offered, including creative arts and media, a sports curriculum and a higher education centre for courses offering Level 4 qualification and above, all featuring at Coleg y Cymoedd in Aberdare for the first time.

The popular textiles and upholstery course will continue at the new campus, which was specifically designed to meet the industry jobs demands of firms in the area.

Alongside courses such as plumbing and electrical, the Aberdare campus will also include a salon and restaurant, meeting the industry standards for learners on the health and beauty course and professional cookery programme respectively. Both the salon and restaurant will be open to the public as a new offering for the community as well as learners.


Staff and learners from the college were joined by Alun Davies AM, who marked the significant milestone in the construction of the new campus by laying cement at the highest point of the building.  At the end of 2015, Welsh Government pledged its support for the project by funding 50% of the development, helping to make the Aberdare campus a reality for Coleg y Cymoedd.

Speaking at the event, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies, said: “This new campus exemplifies the Coleg’s mission to make excellence in education and skills development a reality for all learners in the communities it serves, in particular changing the face of post-16 education in the south Wales valleys. The Welsh Government recognises that it is vital to the future economy of Wales that education is delivered in fit for the future facilities, which are environmentally responsible, modern and technologically advanced.


“This building promises a fantastic environment to develop confident, motivated learners, and encourage those learners to gain the skills they need to progress and achieve their aspirations, whether progressing to higher education, an apprenticeship programme or employment.”

The state-of-the-art campus, which is being led by specialist construction contractors Kier, will replace Coleg y Cymoedd’s current campus on Cwmdare Road, fitted with modern facilities and designed to meet the needs of young people in education today.

Judith Evans, principal at Coleg y Cymoedd spoke at the topping out event, and said: “This is a hugely exciting project for the college that is starting to really take shape now. Thanks to Kier’s hard work, we’re on track to open the college next September, it will completely reinvigorate post 16 education in Aberdare for hundreds of learners.


“What’s more, we believe the campus will become a hub for the community as they take advantage of the new salon and restaurant run by our learners which is open to the public. As ever, we’re dedicated to providing the best education standards for learners across South Wales, which they all deserve in order to pursue their chosen career.”

The site’s proximity to Aberdare railway station, Aberdare Community School and the town centre will provide learners and staff with significantly improved access to public transport and commuter links from outlying areas. Coleg y Cymoedd has vowed to work closely with the neighbouring schools to create a curriculum that complements and enhances the offering for learners in the region.


Contractors Kier have used the latest sustainable building materials on site throughout the construction following Coleg y Cymoedd’s commitment to the green agenda. Speaking about the construction process, David Wainwright, Commercial Director for Kier Construction Western and Wales said:  “Coleg y Cymoedd’s new Aberdare campus is on target to achieve BREEAM Excellence, an accolade that demonstrates the combined team commitment to sustainability. Learners from the college’s existing campuses have been able to visit the site during the build process, and expand their knowledge by experiencing how classroom theories are applied in practice on a live construction site. Students have also been given insight to the vast range of career opportunities available in construction.

“The visits have been welcomed, particularly by the students who are interested in quantity surveying, site management and engineering. Kier Construction have also been working with the local community, and with 75% of the workforce living in the local area, the whole scheme really illustrates the potential opportunities for the youngsters of Aberdare. The new campus will be the starting point for their future.”


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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