Cymoedd Alumnus shares Oxford Experience

Current A Level learners studying at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus welcomed a former A Level learner back to the campus this week to share her experiences of studying at Oxford University.

Megan Howells (19), studied at the A Level Centre in 2017 and achieved outstanding A*A*A grades in English, Law and History to secure a place at Queen’s College, Oxford, where she is currently studying Law.

Megan had signed up to the college’s Alumni Network, whose members volunteer to visit the college to speak to current learners, deliver seminars, and appear as Guest Speakers at a variety of events.

Megan said, “It was great to return to the college and share my learning journey with the A Level learners.  They were keen to find out how I had managed coursework and revision for my A Levels. They also asked lots of questions about studying and life at Oxford University. I was keen for them to realise that, when I started my A Levels, I hadn’t considered studying at Oxford, but with a lot of hard work and support from my family and tutors, here I am today! I hope my visit has given them some tips for their studies and also the inspiration to believe in themselves and go for it! I wish them every success for their future. I am delighted that, by signing up to the Cymoedd Alumni, I have been able to give something back to the college that helped me realise my goals.”

Ian Rees, Director of A Levels, said, “Megan’s enthusiasm about her studies both at the college and Oxford certainly engaged the current learners, who asked a range of pertinent questions regarding how to prepare for exams and how she had coped with the transition from the South Wales Valleys to studying at Oxford University. Megan is a fantastic ambassador for the college and an inspiring role model for our A Level learners, showing them just what they, too, can aspire to achieve.

Cymoedd staff recognised for enhancing Welsh Language Skills

Staff employed at Coleg y Cymoedd have been inspired to improve their Welsh language skills by the Work Welsh project, funded by the National Centre for Learning Welsh. The project, now in its second year following a successful pilot project in 2017-2018, saw over 250 staff in the Further Education Sector benefitting from this year’s project.

To increase the Welsh medium and bilingual provision in colleges, ColegauCymru set a challenging target of ensuring that at least 80% of the staff involved were academic staff, as this would have a direct impact on the classroom language.

Coleg y Cymoedd was encouraged this year by an increase in participation from its staff,  in 2017-18  8 members of staff from Coleg y Cymoedd completed the Cymraeg Gwaith scheme, whereas 16 members of staff signed up to the 2018 project. Seven of the successful cohort were members of staff from the Care department, which was beneficial as it meant they could work together and support each other as a team.

Cymoedd Health & Social Care tutor Alison Williams came second in the category for best progress at Entry/Foundation level, one of the most fiercely fought categories with over 15 entries. Receiving her certificate Alison said “Before starting the course, I felt I had very little Welsh. However, learning on the Cymraeg Gwaith course in a supportive and friendly atmosphere has enabled me to learn and use the Welsh language with my learners as well as thoroughly enjoying the experience myself”.

Pictured: Alison Williams being presented with her framed certificate by the Head of Welsh Language Developments, Alison Jones with some members of the college’s Promoting Welsh Group.

Alison Kitson, her proud tutor commented ‘”I’m so proud of Alison’s efforts and achievements in her Welsh learning on the Cymraeg Gwaith course.  To go from nothing but “Bore Da”, to being able to speak with her Welsh-speaking learners, and to give both oral and written feedback bilingually on their work, in 7 months, is a massive undertaking.  Alison’s commitment to Welsh is second to none.”

Pictured: Alison with Cymraeg Gwaith tutor, Alison Kitson, who put her forward for the award and Alison Jones, Head of Welsh Language Developments.

Alison Jones, Head of Welsh Language Developments at the College, stated ‘Coleg y Cymoedd is delighted to be part of the Cymraeg Gwaith scheme again this year. Alison’s success at embedding the Welsh language into her lessons is beneficial to her learners, inspiring to her colleagues and testament to the success of the scheme. The college is proud of all the staff who completed the course and we look forward to continuing to offer this excellent training in 2019-20.’

Congratulating the successful learners Nia Brodrick, Work Welsh project coordinator for the Further Education sector said, “We are very glad to have the opportunity to award the individuals and departments who have shown so much dedication to the Work Welsh scheme and to learning Welsh. The individuals receiving awards this year have made the most of every opportunity to practice their new Welsh skills, inspiring their students and colleagues in the meantime. The Colleges should be proud of the enthusiasm of these learners, and also a big thank you to the language tutors for their hard work during the year”

Valleys learner set for once in a lifetime trip to world famous research centre

A college learner from the south Wales valleys has been given the opportunity of a lifetime to gain hands on experience working at one of the most famous scientific research centres in the world.

Georgia Harkus, a 17-year-old electronics learner from Tonyrefail, will be heading to Switzerland in June to spend two years working at the renowned European Organisation for Nuclear Research, otherwise known as CERN.

Home to the Large Hadron Collider – the multi-billion-pound machine which simulates the moment following the ‘Big Bang’ – CERN is globally renowned for its cutting-edge particle physics research.

Currently in the final year of her Level 3 Diploma in Electronics at Coleg y Cymoedd, Georgia was personally selected to take part in the programme after impressing CERN representatives in interviews. She is set to travel to the centre for an initial visit in March, before moving to Switzerland to begin the work experience programme in June.

The programme at CERN will provide Georgia with the opportunity to gain world-class experience in engineering, working at the forefront of science, as well as the chance to see the Hadron Collider in action up close.

Georgia, who hopes to work in aerospace engineering said: “I’m really excited to start my placement at CERN. Being selected for the programme has been amazing and will provide me with incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. It will provide me with invaluable experience and develop my skills in engineering, helping me to map out my future career. It’ll will be amazing to be immersed at the front of nuclear research and potentially being involved in new scientific discoveries.

“Further opportunities may arise whilst I’m in Switzerland which could set up my career for life. At the end of the experience I hope to move back to the UK and have ambitions to work within aviation for companies such as GE or British Airways.

“As well as working at the centre, I’m looking forward to moving away from home and spending two years in Switzerland, learning a new language, meeting people from a variety of backgrounds and being more independent.”

Georgia will follow in the footsteps of fellow Coleg y Cymoedd learner Victoria Griffiths, who is currently working at CERN as a technician after gaining a place on its Technician Training Experience (TTE) programme in 2017.

Originally studying a Technical Diploma at Coleg y Cymoedd, Victoria was inspired to apply for the paid programme following a trip to CERN as part of her college studies, where she discovered the institution was calling out for talented technicians. Open to individuals with a Technical diploma, the scheme provides successful candidates with the opportunity to work in a range of fields at the cutting edge of technology.

College learner turns up the pressure on the competition at national awards

The race to be named the UK’s top plumbing apprentice is heating up for a local college learner.

Fresh from a victory at the regional heats, 19-year-old Lewis Blakely, from Caerphilly, is set to face rivals from across the country at the grand finals of the HIP UK Heating Apprentice of the Year competition. 

A win at the regional competition held at Gower College Swansea saw the Level 3 plumbing learner from Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus triumph over candidates from across Wales in a series of demanding practical tasks, which would be considered challenging for seasoned professionals.

His success was made all the more special by the fact that this was Lewis’ second year to compete for the Welsh title, having narrowly missed out on a place at the national final in 2018.

Following the result at the Welsh semi-finals, Lewis Blakely said: “To be honest I’m overwhelmed. I came to last year’s competition, but it wasn’t my time. I’m absolutely chuffed to bits with the result. There were some tough challenges set at this stage but I’m glad that I was able to produce tidy results on the tasks I was given. Now I’ve got to get back to work at college, I’ll be interested to see what Lee, my tutor at the college, is going to find for me to do to prepare for the finals.” 

Lewis will now join the winners of each of the seven regional heats and the highest runner-up overall scorer at the grand finals in Cheltenham later this month. Alongside the prestige for both the winning student and winning college, over £10,000 worth of tools and prizes are up for grabs for the winner.

Lee Perry, plumbing lecturer at Coleg y Cymoedd: “We’ve got a good track record at these awards, Lewis is our fifth learner in the last six years to make it up to Cheltenham for the finals. It’s really pleasing to see that track record continue.”

As a Level 3 student and apprentice, Lewis’ time is split between college-based learning at Coleg y Cymoedd and his apprenticeship with Aberdare-based plumbing and heating service, Darranlas.

Another of Lewis’ lecturers at Coleg y Cymoedd, Dean Perry, said: “We were really proud to see what Lewis was able to produce at the heats, he did a fantastic job and we know he’s going to put the work in to prepare for the next stage. We’re looking forward to seeing what he’ll do at the UK finals.”

With places to enter the competition limited to one student per campus, Lewis faced strong rivals from within Coleg y Cymoedd to secure his spot at the Welsh stages. Currently, the college trains over 200 plumbing learners at its four campuses in Nantgarw, Aberdare, Rhondda and Ystrad Mynach. 

Cymoedd A Level learners enjoy ‘Brilliant’ experience

A group of learners from the A level Centre at Coleg y Cymoedd have taken part in an initiative designed to increase the number of learners from under-represented backgrounds progressing to top universities.

The Brilliant Club is an award-winning access charity that works with learners aged 10 – 18 from schools and colleges across the U.K. The Club has two Core programmes, the Scholars Programme and Researchers in School.

The A Level learners from Coleg y Cymoedd signed up to the Scholars Programme, which recruits, trains and places doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in colleges and schools.

The researchers deliver university-style tutorials, supported by two field trips to emulate the learning that students experience at highly selective universities.

The A Level learners began their six-week programme with a visit to Wadham College at Oxford University, which stood them in good stead for the work that followed.

The Programme continued with weekly sessions at the Nantgarw campus, facilitated by Amanda Courtright-Lim, a PhD student from Cardiff University. The group looked at ‘Moral Philosophy in the Modern Era’ and had to write a report, which was marked in line with degree grading, with all Cymoedd learners obtaining a 2:1 for their reports.

Evie Wood said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the Scholars Programme. I’d never really thought of applying to universities such as Oxford but the programme has given me an insight into university life and also the level of work that is expected. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet some of the students and hear first- hand what it is like to study there – when it comes to applying for universities, I will be keeping all my options open”.

Four of the Cymoedd ‘Brilliant Club’ graduates attended a Graduation Ceremony at Cardiff University to mark successful completion of the programme.

Commenting on the success of the learners, Holly Richards, tutor for the Stretch and Challenge Group within the A Level Centre, added, “I’m delighted that our learners enjoyed the whole experience provided through the Scholars Programme and that it has inspired them to consider applying for universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. It’s so important for us to create the opportunities for our learners to aspire to top universities. On behalf of the college, I would like to thank Amanda who was such an inspiration to the learners”.

Engineering learners are leading lights

Three Engineering learners from Cymoedd’s Rhondda campus were awarded first prize in this year’s St. David’s Day Competition. The competition, which has become an annual event in the college calendar forms part of the wider celebrations for Welsh Week.

Welsh Week provides the opportunity to celebrate all things Welsh, and includes a range of activities across all four campuses. The aim is to encourage learners and staff to celebrate their heritage and their language.

This year, individual learners and groups were asked to answer the question ‘What does Wales mean to me?’ through any medium they desired.

Each Campus Director was given the task of choosing the winning entry on their campus with the overall Coleg y Cymoedd winner being selected by Vice Principal David Finch, Head of Welsh Language Developments Alison Jones and Welsh Language Officer Lois Roberts.

The successful learners on the Rhondda campus and Overall winners were Alex Joshua Howe, Evan James Chapman and Brandon Jason Knight. The learners studying on the Level 3 VRQ Engineering Apprenticeship came up with the idea to manufacture a replica brass Davey Lamp using the knowledge and skills acquired in their studies and the equipment available in the college workshop.


They carried out research on the development of the miner’s lamp and the significant part it played in the mining industry, providing light to work by and an accident prevention system as it detected “firedamp” and lack of oxygen. The ‘lamp’ was also to become the emblem of the South Wales miners whose broader role was to bring education, leisure, medical and cultural events to the coalfield society. The lamp also held some personal memories for the learners as their grandfathers and great grandfathers were proud Welsh miners and had related stories of the camaraderie during their time working in the mines.


On receiving the award Alex, Evan and Brandon thanked their family members for their work in the mines, acknowledging the sacrifices that the coalfield society working men, women and children gave during their working lives in such dangerous conditions.

Congratulating the winners Campus Director for the Rhondda campus, Carolyn Donegan said “These learners have demonstrated their total commitment to their learning having travelled from a starting point as Vocational Access foundation learning to Level 3 Engineering.  They are so strong in their vocational area that they are on a Most Able and Talented pathway. They have certainly rose to this challenge, their research and production of the lamp is excellent”.

The competition resulted in some outstanding work submitted by the learners.  The winning entry at the Aberdare campus and Joint-Runner up overall was the Replica Rugby Pitch. This was a joint project by Sean Evans and Dylan Joseph who are studying on the E3 Construction Course and the learners from the Level 1 Creative course Thomas Biggin, Marcie Dalladay, Courtney Henning, Harry Jones, Jenna Jones, Saskia Gough, Charlotte Thomas, Megan Warner, Rhiannon White, Tiegan Griffiths, Dymonde David, who were involved in the decorating of the stand.


School Links Learner, Katie Ashleigh Williams’s poem was selected ‘winner’ at the Nantgarw campus and Joint-Runner up overall. Kyle White, studying on the Level 1 Health and Social Care course at the Ystrad Mynach campus took the winning prize for her Welsh Dragon artwork.


Commenting on the success of the competition and Welsh Week Head of Welsh Language Developments Alison Jones said: “It was great to see not only the number of entries we received for this competition, but also the quality of those entries. Judging the overall winner was very difficult as it was clear to see how much effort and skill the learners had demonstrated. As a judging panel, we felt very proud of our learners and glad to see them celebrating what Wales means to them”

Local learners heading to Oxford

Two Coleg y Cymoedd learners have been successful in securing a place on the prestigious UNIQ Summer School Programme at Oxford University.

Jodie Neville and Wei Tou Chiu are delighted to have secured places against fierce competition from applicants across Britain. The UNIQ summer schools are part of a widening access programme, which is open to learners studying in their first year of A Levels, with preference given to applicants who come from schools and areas with limited or no history of successful application to Oxford.


To register their interest in the summer schools, the learners had to submit personal statements outlining their interest in their chosen course and their reasons for wanting to attend UNIQ; these statements also required an endorsement from members of staff at the college. Both learners were successful in securing places on their preferred courses.

 In July, Jodie and Wei will experience a typical week at Oxford University, staying in the student accommodation and attending lectures, seminars and workshops about applying to Oxford. They will also have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of social activities included in the programme.

Jodie, 16 from Treharris who secured a place on the Law programme, said, “I was thrilled when I heard I’d won a place on the UNIQ Summer School for Law! My tutors had encouraged me to apply but I really didn’t think I would be selected. I can’t wait to sample the academic and social life that a top university like Oxford has to offer – I’m sure the whole thing will be an amazing experience.”

Wei Tou, also 16 from Porth, who will be attending the Human Sciences programme, added, “I’m really grateful to Coleg y Cymoedd for supporting my successful application for the UNIQ programme at Oxford University, which promises to be a fantastic opportunity. I’m sure I’ll learn a great deal from the experience, and that it will help me make an informed decision about my university choices and possible future career.”

Congratulating the learners, Director of Faculty, A Levels, Ian Rees, stated, “I am delighted that Jodie and Wei Tou have secured a place on this year’s UNIQ summer school at Oxford University. Opportunities such as this are invaluable in providing an insight into university life at one of the UK’s most prestigious institutions.

At Coleg y Cymoedd, we are proud of the choice of A Levels we offer, together with the excellent teaching and support from staff. Given the level of motivation of these learners, we are very much hoping they will follow in the footsteps of some of our past learners, who have also gone on to study at Oxford University.

Bronze Award for Cymoedd Plumber

A Coleg y Cymoedd learner has secured a Bronze Award at this year’s Skills Competitions Wales Construction sector 2018/2019. Skills Competition Wales aims to raise the profile of skills in Wales and offers learners, trainees and apprentices in Wales a chance to challenge, benchmark and raise their skills by taking part in competitions across a range of sectors.

Jamie Richards, 20 from Aberdare is currently studying on the City & Guilds 6035 Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing course at the Aberdare campus with his sight set firmly on a Plumbing apprenticeship. The competitors were assessed on a challenging criteria which included Working Safely, Interpreting drawings and pipe details, Measuring, fitting and installation requirements, Measuring, marking out and cutting copper pipework, Bend and joint quality, Plumb & level, Testing pipe work for soundness and Efficient use of materials.

Commenting after receiving his award Jamie said I am really happy to have achieved this award, I am enjoying the course and my time at Coleg y Cymoedd. I want to say thank you to Steve, Mal and Bryan for their continual support and encouragement. I finish my Level 2 in June and hopefully I’ll be able to get an Apprenticeship and achieve my NVQ.”

Jamie’s tutor and Campus Co-ordinator for Construction at the Aberdare campus, Steve Robbins said” This is a fantastic achievement for Jamie, the hard work and high standards he demonstrates in the workshop have been recognised in this competition. The Skills competition is important to all learners and gives them something to aspire to. Having this award and being able to put this on his CV will allow him to stand out when going into interviews for employment, this recognition will build his confidence and allow him to believe in his own ability”.


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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