TV pottery star teaches learners the art of the trade with series of workshops

The winner of this year’s ‘Great Pottery Throw Down’ series on Channel 4 has returned to Coleg y Cymoedd, over a decade after first studying at the college, to share her skills and tips with budding artists. Jodie Neale, who was crowned champion of the national pottery TV show earlier this year, beat 11 other avid ceramic artists from across the country to take the top title. The competition saw contestants take part in a series of challenges where they were required to design and create pieces centred around a theme which varied each week, from musician inspired busts to 1920s art deco party sets.

Originally studying Foundation Art and Design at Coleg y Cymoedd back in 2003, Jodie went on to obtain a BA Hons Fine Art degree at Coleg Sir Gar in 2007, before qualifying and working as a nurse for the NHS.

Despite not pursuing art as a career, Jodie never lost sight of her passion for all things creative. Shortly after obtaining her nursing qualification, she signed up to evening pottery classes and quickly rediscovered her love for the craft. After twelve weeks of classes, Jodie created her own studio at the bottom of her garden and has been creating ceramic art and pottery pieces from there ever since. After gaining confidence, she decided to apply for the Channel 4 show last year, impressing viewers and judges with her level of skill and artistry.

Having now returned home to Aberdare following the show, Jodie will be making her return to college to host a series of pottery workshops for staff and Level 3 Art and Design learners.

The workshops, which will run from Thursday 16th June until Friday 2nd July, will cover all of the basics involved in pottery, such as throwing clay on the wheel, coiling and slab building. Those taking part in the workshops can expect to gain hands on experience in creating their own customised jar using a variety of decorating techniques, from carving to sgraffito.

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Coleg y Cymoedd’s Foundation Art and Design course, the workshops will further enhance the learning experiences of learners on the course.

Foundation art and design lecturer, and animation specialist at Coleg y Cymoedd, Vanessa Batten, who has organised the workshops, said: “We are looking to expand our ceramics provisions in the future, so having Jodie share her skills and build enthusiasm for pottery in south Wales is such a fantastic opportunity for us as a college.

“Jodie has been asked to teach all over the world but is doing these workshops as exclusive sessions as she wants to give back to the community and the college where she first started her creative journey. It’s a pleasure for us to welcome her back and offer our learners the experience of being taught firsthand by someone who is doing amazing things since getting their qualification at the college.”

Following months of remote teaching, the workshops have already been met with much praise from learners on the Foundation Art and Design course.

Foundation Art and Design learner, Katie Kirby Jones, is one of the first learners to have attended a workshop. She said: “I’ve never really had much experience with clay, so it was great to have my first proper experience be with someone who genuinely has a passion for working with the material. I have learnt so many new techniques in just one session and had a lot of fun as well.”


Multi-million-pound education investments revealed at Coleg y Cymoedd Rhondda Campus

One of South Wales’ largest further education colleges, Coleg y Cymoedd, has unveiled a series of new developments resulting from over £4 million of investment at its Rhondda campus.

Learners arriving on campus after months of remote learning returned to find an entire wing comprising a new fully equipped workshop and craft room, a purpose-built restaurant and advanced culinary training facility, modern shower and changing facilities for its sports field, as well as a dedicated room designed to help learners develop independent living skills. A modern multi-purpose learner experience hall, which will be used for a variety of courses, has also been built and will be made available for private hire once the easing of restrictions allow.

The investments, part-funded by Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, form part of the college’s plans to continually invest in new facilities and equipment that will allow learners across its catchment area to have access to the latest training opportunities and career paths.  

Carolyn Donegan, Campus Director at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Rhondda campus, said: “It’s an exciting time at the college as we unveil the hard work that has been put into creating new facilities for our staff, learners and the wider Rhondda community.

“What started off as a refurbishment of our campus has since grown into a large-scale project to further enhance teaching provisions, enrich the curriculum and modernise the college facilities. The aim is to continue providing a high standard of teaching and training for many years to come, and in doing so, ensure that learners, both present and future, excel in their studies and training”.


Vocational Access learners studying electric installations, carpentry and plumbing now have access to their own purpose-built workshop, which provides them with the space, tools, and resources they need to gain industry-standard training that will help them excel in their trades.

For arts and crafts learners, a dedicated room has been opened for in-person teaching and to enable them to carry out their own crafts projects, from basket making to woodwork.

To ensure that Coleg y Cymoedd’s provisions for learners with additional learning needs (ALN) meet the standards set out by Welsh Government’s ALN Bill, the college has revealed a new dedicated room for Independent Living Skills (ILS). The room will feature an imitation residential flat with a fully functioning kitchen and home appliances so that they can grow their confidence living independently through hands-on activities.

The college has also unveiled a new commercial culinary training facility and commercial grade kitchen and restaurant. In a nod to the region’s mining history and the year that work began on the project, the restaurant has been named ‘Colliery 19’ and will feature coal mine inspired décor with a modern twist. All food will be prepared and served by learners studying all levels of catering courses, from introductory to advanced qualifications, under the guidance of professional chefs and front of house staff. As lockdown restrictions ease and in line with government guidelines, Colliery-19 will open its doors to the general public in the near future.

Looking ahead, Coleg y Cymoedd has further plans to enhance training and learning opportunities for learners at the Rhondda campus by converting the current on-site retail space into a student-run enterprise that will provide them with the opportunity to gain work experience and boost their enterprising skills. The multi-purpose space will offer a variety of uses including a catering outlet for learners to develop their skills and gain retail experience, an area for learners to sell their creations from patisserie to carpentry, as well as a location to sell refreshments during events at the college theatre.

The space will also act as an extension of the college’s facilities provisions for learners with additional learning needs and for those wanting to develop independent living skills, offering them the opportunity to develop their skills and practice what they have learnt in the classroom in a realistic work environment. 

In a bid to provide more benefits to the wider Rhondda community, as well as learners and staff, the campus also boasts a new multi-use learner experience hall which, once fully operational and as restrictions ease, will be made available to the local community for private functions. New shower and changing block facilities have also been created at the campus’ sports field, which will be open to members of the public wanting to use the space for sporting events and activities. Local teams such as the Rhondda Miners Ladies rugby team have already taken advantage of the new facilities and will be using the field as a training ground for their players.

Jonathan Morgan, Vice Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “The college is dedicated to developing its facilities and teaching provisions. The investments at the Rhondda campus highlight our continued work to ensure we provide a high-quality learning experience for young people in the region.

“They are a key part of our commitment to increasing provisions for learners with additional learning needs, above and beyond requirements, and will also enable us to expand the curriculum to offer higher level qualifications in various disciplines. This means that learners will be able to progress their chosen education route at one campus, something we were not previously able to offer”.




Partnership will create Super League pathway for aspiring Welsh rugby players

A new rugby academy has been launched at Coleg y Cymoedd to provide aspiring players with the chance to join a Super League team.

Salford Red Devils – a professional rugby league club in Greater Manchester, has partnered up with Wales Rugby League and Coleg y Cymoedd to create a talent pathway and coach development programme for Welsh players.

The club has a long history of recruiting Welsh players dating back to the 1890s and spanning 147 sportsmen, including rugby league stars Rhys Williams. The new academy will look to continue this illustrious legacy of Welsh talent in the Salford ranks, providing a route for talented players into a professional club.


Under the brand, Wales Rugby League National Development Academy in partnership with Salford Red Devils, the initiative will operate out of Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus. It will be the only RFL accredited Development Academy in Wales.

Players at the academy will receive elite coaching from the Salford Red Devils, Wales Rugby League and Cymoedd’s expert team of coaches, while also studying a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in sport. Splitting their time between practical training and academic studies, they will learn about a variety of topics including sports nutrition, sports injuries, fitness testing, match officiating, anatomy and physiology.

A Salford Red Devils Coach will attend once a month to provide training, advice and professional insights. They will also act as scouts to assess players’ skills, with a view to providing those that impress with the chance to play with the club in the Super League.


Ian Blease, director of rugby and operations at Salford Red Devils said: “We know that Wales is home to some exceptional ruby talent and we want to foster and nurture this. The approach to developing young players in Wales, and at Coleg y Cymoedd, also aligns perfectly with the ethos and culture at Salford, which sees as much of a focus placed on personal character and educational development as physical ability and rugby league specific skillsets.  

“Our new academy will provide the best young Welsh players with a potential route to Super League, with the opportunity to progress through the Salford Red Devils player pathway programme.”

As well as providing training for players, the new partnership will see the club also provide support and professional development to coaches.

Mark Jones, Head of rugby league at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Coleg Cymoedd is excited to become an official partner to the Salford Red Devils and WRL on this new venture. Salford is committed to developing new rugby talent and we are impressed with the development pathways they continue to invest in.

“With Salford Red Devils’ history of signing Welsh players, the partnership is a natural fit for Coleg y Cymoedd and the WRL National Development Academy which based at Ystrad Mynach. We can’t wait to see what future talent comes out of the academy!”

Coleg y Cymoedd is the only college in Wales to offer a full time rugby league programme alongside a learner’s education and Welsh players will now have a direct pathway to achieve their dreams of playing Super League. The news comes as Coleg y Cymoedd’s rugby academy has been awarded dual rugby league academy accreditation this month from the RFL in recognition of its provisions for both men’s and women’s rugby. The college already has a highly success rugby programme for men and is in the process of setting up a female academy.

Gareth Kear, Wales Rugby League CEO added: “The partnership between the WRL, Salford Red Devils and Coleg y Cymoedd is the perfect pairing as each of us shares the same values of inclusion, diversity and equality. Together we will work to identify and develop the rich source of rugby league talent that has always existed in Wales, as well as provide outreach projects in deprived areas to make our sport accessible to all.

“We are proud to be running the academy out of Coleg y Cymoedd which has proven itself to be leading name in the furtherment of Welsh rugby.”

For more information on the academy, visit

Former Coleg y Cymoedd learners star on hit TV baking show as new series kicks off

Two former Coleg y Cymoedd catering learners have made it on to a hit TV baking show where they will compete against some of the top professionals in the industry for the crown of best patisserie team in the UK.
Michael Coggan and Andrew Minto, who both work as pastry chefs for Cardiff Bay’s Gin and Bake, are contestants in the new series of Channel 4’s Bake Off: The Professionals.
Presented by comedian Tom Allen and former Bake Off contestant Liam Charles, the show will see the pair compete against 11 other teams of baking professionals from restaurants, hotels, and small businesses across the country to be awarded the coveted title.

They will take part in a range of testing challenges judged by Benoit Blin, Head Pastry Chef at the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, and Cherish Finden, multi-award-winning Executive Pastry Chef at The Langham in London.

This isn’t the first time that team captain Michael has competed in the show after originally falling short of making the final six in 2018. However, he is now hoping to claim the crown this time round with Andrew.

Both chefs hold impressive resumes after studying at Coleg y Cymoedd. After studying Professional Cookery at the college’s Ystrad Mynach campus, Michael landed his first professional role at the Hilton in Cardiff, following a college work placement at the hotel chain. He then went on to work in a string of five-star establishments, including Gleneagles in Scotland and St David’s Hotel in Cardiff, before joining Gin and Bake, where he now heads up the pastry team and recipe development.

Similarly, Andrew, who previously completed a VRQ Level 2 Professional Cookery qualification at the college, worked at a number of establishments in Wales including The Celtic Manor, The Newbridge on Usk and Lanelay Hall Hotel in Talbot Green before joining Michael at Gin and Bake.

Last year, Michael visited culinary learners at Coleg y Cymoedd to give them an exclusive cooking masterclass and answer any questions about working in the sector. During his visit, he taught learners on the Level 3 Patisserie course how to master essential dessert skills, such as tempering chocolate and creating garnishes. He also gave them an insight into the world of entremets – small, sweet French dishes traditionally served between savoury courses – and demonstrated how to make a chocolate showpiece to display these delicate creations.

The talented chef is hoping to return to campus again in the future to continue to share his skills and expertise with the future generation of a professional bakers.


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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