College learners create wildlife pond for community

An area of Welsh woodland that provides a haven for native wildlife has been improved for its local community, thanks to a group of Welsh learners who teamed up with local activists to protect the ecosystem and create a thriving natural habitat. 

There had been plans to build housing at the site of Tynant Woodlands and Common, which is designated as a SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation), but a campaign by local residents has so far seen off the planning permission. In the meantime, local volunteers began to clean up the site and improve its biodiversity.

After hearing about these activities, learners at Coleg y Cymoedd joined forces with local volunteers, Julie Barton and Carys Romney, to restore the land and develop a community wildlife pond at the site. Their aim was to create a flourishing natural beauty spot to highlight the importance of the woodland to the area and deter future development.

Completed in early March, the pond – which is teeming with wildlife – was an immediate success with locals and has proven to be an invaluable outdoor resource for people in the area during the lockdown. Many people have discovered the area for the first time while others have returned to the site after not visiting it for years.

Original plans submitted by housebuilders to create 125 properties at the woodlands were strongly opposed by locals, including campaigners Julie and Carys. Opponents argued that as well as being a much-loved area of greenery, the land is also a haven for a variety of animal and plant species indigenous to Wales.

Wanting to prove the value of the woodland to the local community, Julie and Carys set out to rejuvenate the land, which had become overgrown and neglected, in order to showcases its beauty and highlight the thriving wildlife that it houses.

Julie said: “Having lived near Tynant Woodlands for over 20 years, I am passionate about the nature and wildlife that we have here on our doorstep. There is a lot of unspoilt beauty and the woodlands are homes to a number of rare species of plants and animals that are important to protect.  

“Carys and I had previously worked on litter picking projects in this area and we knew the community couldn’t bear the thought of losing it to housing. We wanted to create a space that people would value and it was great to have the students at Coleg y Cymoedd get stuck in with helping us. They have done an amazing job.

“We now have a beautiful, clean natural spot for local people to enjoy. Lots of families have come to visit the community pond during lockdown and it’s also become an important educational resource for schools and other community groups to teach young people about the environment and the lifecycles of animals such as tadpoles.

“I definitely think that there will now be ever stronger public opinion against any future development proposals.”

The collaboration with Coleg y Cymoedd came after Val Smith, a tutor at the college, encountered Julie and Carys Romney while walking through the woodland. Hearing about their plans to restore the land, she suggested learners on her course get involved and help support efforts as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Learners studying on the Vocational Access to Sports and Public Service courses helped at the site on a weekly basis for over six months and were responsible for clearing paths and woodland, planting saplings, litter picking and helping with general maintenance of the area to preserve woodland. A key part of their role was to create a brand-new wildlife pond to save the lives of hundreds of tadpoles and frogspawn who were previously dying due to the three smaller ponds in the area drying up as the weather warms up.

Learners on the entry level course come from a variety of challenging backgrounds with many of them having to deal with medical conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, Valerie has found that learners have thrived during their outdoor work.

Valerie said: “When I heard about Julie and Carys’ work, I knew that learners on my courses could make a valuable contribution to this important cause. They have to take part in outdoor activity as part of their Duke of Edinburgh qualifications and I thought this would be the perfect outlet to do this while making a real difference to the local community. Our learners have thoroughly enjoyed their experience and are proud to be involved in something like this.

“This initiative has also highlighted the importance of outdoor learning to me. Many of my learners typically have more obstacles than most to education and tend to be disinterested in traditional educational settings. Yet, during this project, they have been transformed and it has been amazing to see to them flourish.”

Following the success of the scheme, Coleg y Cymoedd is hoping to continue work on the Tynant woodlands and common with future learners. The college is also in talks with Julie, Carys and Rhondda Cynon Taf council to begin work on a similar, larger-scale project at the Cwm tips.

National academy launched to support next generation of Welsh rugby talent

South Wales college, Coleg y Cymoedd has teamed up with the Wales Rugby League to launch a brand-new dual academy aimed at supporting Wales’ future male and female professional rugby players.

The ‘Wales Rugby League National Development Academy’ will be the only dual academy in Wales officially accredited by the Rugby Football League.

Committed to producing the next generation of male and female rugby league talent, for the first time, the academy at Coleg y Cymoedd will be open to everyone aged 16-19, regardless of gender, and will offer a potential pathway to play in the Super League and international rugby league.

Designed to provide full-time education alongside professional training, the academy sees individuals train daily while also studying for a qualification such as A Levels, BTECs or vocational courses. They will also play competitive games together on a weekly basis, taking part in the British Colleges League and Cup competitions.

Wales Rugby League CEO, Gareth Kear, said: “We’re delighted that the partnership between Wales Rugby League and Coleg y Cymoedd has undertaken the official accreditation process with the Rugby Football League, and we have now achieved Dual Development Academy Status. This is the first and only accredited dual academy in Wales with a strategic plan to build the men’s and women’s game.”

The Wales Rugby League National Development Academy offers education alongside daily training regimes that are led by Mark Jones, the WRL’s national development manager, and Geraint Kettley – a level 4 strength and conditioning coach. They will be assisted by Wales Students’ head coach Paul Emanuelli, and Wales U19s assistant coach Wayne Ponting.

The programme, which aims to develop all players to an international standard, focuses on key areas including Strength and Conditioning, and Technical and Tactical development, while also providing an enjoyable experience of personal development for young athletes.

Mark Jones, national development manager at the academy said: “At Coleg y Cymoedd, we are very excited to be official partners with Wales Rugby League. We are very impressed with the work WRL is doing with its development pathways, and this partnership is a natural fit as Coleg y Cymoedd is currently the only college in Wales that offers a full time rugby league programme alongside a student’s education.

“We are now in a position to offer travel, kit and meal grants and we also provide self-funded local accommodation with host families for all players who live too far away to commute daily to the Academy. We are also looking into partnerships with Super League clubs, but we do not put any restrictions on teams that our players play for whilst at the Academy. If they would like to represent clubs local to them in the South Wales area, we will help them to locate suitable clubs to join.

“We’ve already had a success story in Kieran Lewis, who came through the WRL pathway, playing for Wales U16s, Coleg y Cymoedd RL, Wales U19s and Wales Students, before signing a professional contract with Huddersfield Giants Academy. We know there are more to come.”

For those who would like to attend the Wales Rugby League National Development Academy, please complete an online application form at https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/en/course/33853/level-3-in-sport-rugby-league to reserve your spot, or email mark.jones01@cymoedd.ac.uk, or call Mark Jones on 07886 654933.

Cymoedd learner set to tread the boards at READ

Cymoedd learner Corey Edwards is celebrating after receiving confirmation that he has secured a place at one of the country’s leading Performing Arts Foundation Colleges.

Twenty year old Corey from Llwynypia, Rhondda will be heading off to READ College in September to study a Foundation Course in Acting. He will join a small cohort of learners to gain confidence and experience, studying a range of topics including Acting, Vocal and Physical.

This news is the start of an exciting career path for Corey as with over 10 years experience, the ‘Acting’ Foundation course at READ College has an industry leading success rate for graduates gaining places at top Drama schools across the UK.

Corey’s journey in Performing Arts began when he attended an Open Day at the Rhondda campus to see what Performing Arts courses were on offer and also the facilities. He was impressed by the facilities and also the passion of Course Leader Jaye Lawrence; he knew this was for him and enrolled on the Level 2 Performing Arts RSL, progressing to the Level 3 Performing Arts RSL.

Speaking about his time at the college Corey said” I have thoroughly enjoyed studying at Coleg y Cymoedd, I cannot emphasise how supportive the staff are. The course has made me a stronger performer, improving my skills as an actor, dancer and singer. The tutors have helped build my confidence levels, pushing me to new heights and achieving the dreams I never thought I could. I’m now a more confident person, able to deal with whatever challenges come my way. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my learning journey and would recommend Coleg y Cymoedd and the course to everyone. This has been the best 3 years of my life“

Coleg y Cymoedd launches internship programme to give learners an employability boost

Coleg y Cymoedd has launched a new supported internship programme designed to help final year learners gain invaluable experience of the workplace, improving their chances of securing employment after college.

The ‘Engage to Change – Gateway to Employment’ scheme – a Welsh Government funded programme – is aimed at helping learners who are studying vocational access qualifications to transition from education into the work environment.

Currently in its first year, the scheme sees twelve learners in their final year of phase 2 or 3 pathway course learn about what will be expected of them in the workplace while gaining practical experience with a local business.

Learners on the programme will attend college one day a week – alongside their regular studies – to develop the skills they will need to succeed in the workplace.

They will also be required to undertake a work-based placement, which they will secure following an interview with a prospective line manager at their company of choice. The aim is to provide the learners with real world experience of the interview process and workplace.

Support from specialist Job Coaches at Coleg y Cymoedd and Elite Supported Employment will be provided to both interns and their new managers throughout the work placements, enabling learners to gain an individualised experience.

The majority of internships have been offered by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council as well as a number of small businesses in the local area covering a variety of roles including catering, administration and childcare.

The programme will run for the academic year and is available to Coleg y Cymoedd learners in their last year of education who are interested in gaining employment experience. Once learners complete the scheme, they will transition into Elite supported employment.

Learners are selected to be part of the scheme after applying through the progression route or being recommended by their current course tutor. Interested candidates will need to join an information evening and fill out an application of interest, before attending an informal interview with the course tutor, Elite and a representative from the placement company.

Following the success of the pilot scheme, the programme will return to the college for the 2020/21 academic year. As a result of Covid-19 safety measures, placements in the first term will consist of only in-house placements until January, where external internships will be possible. Any learners interested in joining the scheme can find more information via: sally.begley@cymoedd.ac.uk

Aberdare

Wellington Street
Aberdare
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN

Nantgarw

Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
Cardiff
CF15 7QY

Rhondda

Llwynypia
Tonypandy
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
Hengoed
CF82 7XR

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