Coleg y Cymoedd opens up specialist female athlete provision to girls in the RCT and Caerphilly communities

Local girls between the ages of 14 and 16 can take advantage of the best that female sport has to offer, thanks to new workshops being run by Coleg y Cymoedd.

This Spring, in partnership with University of South Wales, Cymoedd is running five free netball and rugby half-day workshops, aimed at participants of all standards, from beginners to seasoned pros. An extension of Cymoedd’s Female Academy, the sessions will provide an insight into female-specific training strategies, and allow for a ‘taster’ experience of the best of the college’s provisions.

Setting Cymoedd apart from other institutions, the Female Academy offers a bespoke training programme aligned to the female menstrual cycle, with access to the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), Welsh-leading strength and conditioning coaches, and tutorage from Welsh National Rugby Coach for U18s and U20s, Catrina Nicholas McGaughlin, Welsh Senior and Celtic Dragons Netballer, Shona O’Dwyer, and Head of Rugby and ex-senior Wales Coach, Gareth Wyatt.

The first of the five sessions took place in February, and reached maximum capacity with weeks to spare. Almost 80 participants enjoyed an interactive skills carousel comprising of a speed and agility clinic, an introduction to their chosen sport, and a presentation on the benefits of TASS.

TASS is a programme funded by national governing bodies of sport to help athletes aged 16-plus find a happy medium between their education and sporting development. The pathway aims to bring out the best of young, sporting talent, and identify future stars for national and professional teams.

In Coleg y Cymoedd, TASS learners follow a timetable that prioritises a healthy work-life balance, as tutors consider students’ academic deadlines alongside their sporting commitments. The learners take their classes together to build both an on-pitch and off-pitch community, contributing to team morale, and support between likeminded peers.

Commenting on the success of the first session, Rugby Hub and Wellbeing Officer, Gavin Gallagher, said: “It was great to see girls from different backgrounds – some of whom had never picked up a rugby ball in their life – come together at the end of it all to agree that rugby is something that they love.

He went on to say: “We set these sessions up for girls from school and community clubs across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly, to experience the excellent facilities that Coleg y Cymoedd has to offer.

What’s good about these sessions is that you may find someone who loved the idea of playing sport, but lack of provision, support, or local female clubs prevented them from taking part. The Female Academy Workshops allow everyone to enjoy the sport that they love, and become a part of something greater.”

Sign-ups for session two are live now. Set to take place on 7th March 2023, the day will be dedicated to the participant’s sport of choice, and is open to both previous attendees, and those who did not manage to get tickets the first time around.

Campus Coordinator for Sport and Public Services and Head of the Female Academy, Rachel Hughes, added: “The workshops have been cleverly designed so that they can be taken as a progression of

the last one, or as a standalone. This way, participants get to experience something new each time they attend.”

Speaking of upcoming workshops, Rachel continued: “Participants can still expect to take part in strength and conditioning workshops and benefit from video analysis of their physical performance.

There will be an opportunity for the girls, their school teachers, or parents and guardians to create a direct link with us to answer any questions they may have, and to enquire about future enrolment.”

To sign up for a session, or to learn more about Coleg y Cymoedd’s Female Academy provision, contact: Gavin.Gallager@cymoedd.ac.uk or Rachel.Hughes@cymoedd.ac.uk

World experts and Welsh legends join the launch of Cymoedd’s Festival of Inclusion: the first event of its kind for an FE provider in Wales

Last week, on Friday, 17th February 2023, Coleg y Cymoedd opened the doors of its Nantgarw campus to experts in the field of inclusive education, as nearly 800 of its staff gathered for a specialist training day: Festival of Inclusion.

The list of world-leading guest speakers featured Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Pete Wharmby and Esther Barrett, who delivered over 30 ‘sign-up’ sessions to staff on the day. Areas of focus included: Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, Deaf Awareness, British Sign Language, Assistive Technology, Challenging Behaviour and more. This extensive provision meant that staff members did not have to miss out on topics that most closely aligned to their area of work or appealed to their own professional development.

The fastest-filling slot was a 9.30am presentation by former British and Irish Lions rugby player, Lee Byrne, who delivered an eye-opening account of his life living with Dyslexia. The inspirational figure moved to breakdown assumptions of studying with additional learning needs, and was clear on the help he wishes he had received whilst in school.

In between seminars, staff made use of computers set up in private booths to complete online learning programmes focused on strategies to build inclusive environments in education and the workplace. Also on hand were key partner organisations including Learning Disability Wales, South Wales Police and Public Health Wales, who hosted ‘drop-in’ stands to offer specialist guidance to those who requested it.

Cymoedd’s Festival of Inclusion, which has affectionately become known amongst staff as ‘Inclusion Fest’, is the first training event of its kind in Further Education in Wales. Its inaugural event aimed to equip staff with the necessary skillset ahead of September 2023’s implementation of the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Act in Wales.

The Act will help young learners with ALN reach their full potential by overcoming barriers to learning, ensuring a consistent approach to ALN provisions and a protection of the rights of all children, regardless of the extent of their needs.

The Festival of Inclusion is set to be repeated to keep tutors and support staff abreast of the latest policy changes for education in Wales, and to provide access to the best practice when it comes to creating an inclusive environment for all learners.

Commenting on the importance of the training offered on the day, Dorian Adkins, Head of Inclusion & ALNCo at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Around 20% of all learners who apply to study at Coleg y Cymoedd disclose a learning difficulty or disability, and some of these learners will need support from our Additional Learning Provision. 

At Coleg y Cymoedd, we are committed to providing the best support possible for our learners, and part of that is ensuring that Inclusivity training is useful and engaging across all departments. Alongside the sessions for academic and learning support staff, we ran “Recruiting a Neurodiverse Workforce” for our People & Culture team and “Making Information Easy to Read” for our business support staff.”

He went on to say: ‘The event has been the first of its kind for FE providers in Wales. The overwhelming engagement and feedback that we’ve had from staff is a testament to their commitment in providing inclusive learning environments for learners with additional needs. 

I’d like to thank all of the amazing guest speakers, the charities and organisations who gave their time to offer advice on inclusion and of course all of the amazing staff at Cymoedd for their involvement. Our learners will benefit so much from this.”

Coleg y Cymoedd teams up with team behind hit TV show to support next generation of production talent

A college in the south Wales valleys is set to welcome the team behind hit BBC TV series, His Dark Materials, for an exclusive exhibition aimed at giving members of the public an insight into the inner workings of the world of television.

Coleg y Cymoedd will be holding a unique showcase at its Nantgarw campus that will allow the local community to see puppets and other creations from the popular fantasy series up close.

Masterclasses run by His Dark Materials producers and industry professionals will also be open to attendees, which will show visitors how the creatures are made and demonstrate what skills are needed to work in the sector.

Hosted in partnership with Bad Wolf, Screen Alliance Wales, Ian Johnson Publicity, and Creature Effects team responsible for all three series of His Dark Materials, the exhibition will be open to the public from the 4th – 11th March, with the free masterclasses available throughout the evenings from the 8th – 10th March.

Course leader and creative industries co-ordinator at Coleg y Cymoedd, Alistair Aston, has been working closely with industry partners to bring the exhibition to fruition and promote access to creative careers in the film sector.

He said: “This exhibition is a really exciting opportunity for us as a college, but also for young people and members of the public who are interested in working in the film industry. It is the first exhibition of its kind and will allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the process of creating fantastical worlds and creatures for TV. They’ll get to see exactly how they are brought to life on screen, learning from industry experts – something which people don’t often get the opportunity to experience.

“With the help of our strong links to industry, our goal is to develop a centre of excellence for creature effects and visual effects – the processes of creating creatures and special effects for TV. We’re continually looking at ways we use innovative resources and train our learners within active studios and specialist facilities to give them the best chances of securing employment once they leave college.”

During the event, visitors will be able to walk through a recreated workshop at Coleg y Cymoedd, made to resemble the one used by the creature effects team during the hit BBC show’s filming, and will get to see first-hand the real daemon puppets that were used to bring to life the likes of Lyra’s Pantalaimon and Lord Asriel’s Stelmaria.

Alongside the immersive exhibition, the masterclasses, led by the CreatureFX team for the programme, will provide an exclusive peek into the process of puppet making, puppeteering, and visual effects needed to take the daemons from concept to studio to screen.

The college will also host a dedicated family workshop on Saturday 4th March, where children will be able to build their own daemons based on the designs and processes used for the show.

A number of Coleg y Cymoedd’s partner schools, as well as Screen Alliance Wales’ community groups, will also have access to the exhibition and workshops, in a bid to encourage more young people to engage with creative courses and vocations, and to promote accessibility to careers within Wales’ booming film industry.

Creature effects artists, Eliot Gibbins and Olivia Racionzer, were both part of the team responsible for creating the daemons for all three seasons of His Dark Materials, also working alongside the cast members to bring the daemons to life. The team have been working with Coleg y Cymoedd to make the exhibition, workshops and masterclasses a reality for learners and the public.

Eliot said: “A huge amount of work goes into creating puppets before the on-screen effects happen and we can’t wait to show the public the creativity and hard work that goes into creating a production of this scale.

“Coleg y Cymoedd really champion creative careers and provides learners with a strong education foundation with real industry links. This is something which is really important to us as it really helps young people to access the film industry.”

Olivia added: “We can’t wait to begin the exhibition and to work alongside learners and the public during the workshops and masterclasses. We’re very excited to present a Masterclass from the show’s designer and executive producer, Joel Collins, and the show’s series visual effects supervisor, Russell Dodgson.  We have Creature FX specific Masterclasses from Brian Fisher, the Golden Monkey Puppeteer, and William Todd-Jones who set up the department in season one.

“We hope that this event amplifies the great work the college is already doing to promote creative careers, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work alongside them in the future.”

Coleg y Cymoedd’s His Dark Materials exhibition will take place at it’s Nantgarw campus, opening times:

Saturday workshop: 4th March, 10am – 1pm

Public exhibition: 6th – 11th March, 10am – 8pm

Masterclasses: 9th & 10th March, 7pm.  

For further information and to book your free time slot for an exhibition, workshop, or masterclass, visit: https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/his-dark-materials-exhibition-the-creatures/

Hefin David MS meets Coleg y Cymoedd learners benefiting from new Welsh medium and bilingual provision

During a visit to the Coleg y Cymoedd Ystrad Mynach campus, local Member of the Senedd for Caerphilly, Hefin David, met learners taking advantage of the new Welsh medium and bilingual provision within the further education college supported by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

With more than £160,000 invested in Coleg y Cymoedd by the Coleg Cymraeg over the last four years, Welsh medium and bilingual provision is now available to learners whatever their Welsh language skills in a number of fields such as Sport, Health and Social Care and Public Services.

Carys Roach, one of the Coleg y Cymoedd learners and an Ambassador for the Coleg Cymraeg said: “Being bilingual is special. Speaking to others who can speak Welsh is amazing and being able to continue to use my Welsh language skills in the college is really important to me. It’s so lovely meeting other people who can speak Welsh and also inspire others to learn. My favourite experience in the college is being a Coleg Cymraeg Ambassador and being able to share my love for the Welsh language with other like-minded people.”

Meeting the learners and staff, Hefin David MS said: “It is great to see Welsh Government funding for the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol having a clear impact in practice, on the ground. The Welsh-medium provision at Coleg Y Cymoedd has improved considerably as a result of the team’s dedicated work. The students I spoke with are very enthusiastic about the provision and I was delighted to hear that they are acting as ambassadors for the Welsh language on campus.”

The support of the Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, Jonathan Morgan, and his senior team, has been vital to the success of establishing Welsh medium and bilingual provision. 

Jonathan Morgan said: “I was delighted to be able to welcome Hefin David to the college along with our partners from the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. We at Coleg y Cymoedd are committed to the promotion and facilitation of the Welsh Language and continue to see new opportunities to ensure the language continues to grow and proper across each campus.”

Also present was the Chair of the Coleg Cymraeg, Dr Aled Eirug. Talking about the importance of the Coleg’s work in the further education and apprenticeship sectors he said: “The government has identified the growth in bilingual skills across the public sector as a priority, especially in the fields of health and care and education, and the requirements set out in the Welsh Language Standards right across the economy mean that the demand for a bilingual workforce is increasing. It was fantastic to meet learners today who are benefitting directly from the investments and commitment of Coleg y Cymoedd and the Coleg Cymraeg and who are contributing to the aim of creating a bilingual workforce for the future.”

Coleg Cymraeg’s vision for the further education sector is to ensure that the Welsh language is accessible to all. To achieve this, a skills development model is being used to increase levels of awareness, understanding, confidence and fluency, which will lead to the upskilling of everyone in the sector.

To achieve this, the Coleg is working on:

  • increasing the level of support for learners to use and develop their Welsh language skills within their chosen vocation;
  • ensuring sufficient staffing capacity at a range of linguistic levels to support learners and apprentices;
  • developing bilingual and Welsh-medium provision in colleges across the country; and
  • ensuring sufficient resources and qualifications are available to support this learning through the medium of Welsh.
  • Employers also have a key role in identifying and creating the demand for Welsh language skills in workplaces.

To find out more about the Coleg’s work in the further education and apprenticeships sector go to the Coleg’s website: Further Education and Apprenticeships (colegcymraeg.ac.uk).

Local learners among Oxbridge recruits

Three talented Coleg y Cymoedd A-Level learners have been successful in securing offers from two of Britain’s most prestigious universities.

Carys Lewis has received an offer to read Chemistry at the University of Oxford (Exeter College), Jacob Jones for Physics at the University of Oxford (Jesus College), and Luc Jones for Computer Science at the University of Cambridge (Wolfson College).

Both Carys and Jacob, from Pontypridd, are part of the Seren Programme at Coleg y Cymoedd which supports learners with applications to competitive universities such as Oxbridge, Russell Group universities and medical schools.

Commenting on an Oxbridge-style interview practice organised by Coleg y Cymoedd and Seren, Carys said: “the interview is the most daunting part of the Oxbridge admissions process, so the coaching I received from a subject expert in the types of questions I could expect to be asked and how to approach them really helped me feel properly prepared.”

The Seren Programme and Cymoedd A-Level staff have introduced learners to widening-access schemes that prioritise high-achieving learners from state schools, encouraging them to apply for top universities.

In July 2022, Jacob was one of three Cymoedd learners who were successful in obtaining a place on a week-long fully-funded Summer School at the University of Oxford. The ‘UNIQ’ programme gave Jacob a valuable insight into life at Oxford University and led to him making his application last September.

Similarly, Luc was able to join the University of Cambridge’s pioneering programme, ‘STEM SMART’, which launched in September 2021. STEM SMART allowed Luc the opportunity of weekly online supervisions with leading Cambridge academic experts in their field and assigned him a student mentor. Speaking of the opportunity, Luc said: “STEM SMART has been very helpful for me. The tutorials have given me a more in-depth understanding of key topics, and have revisited areas that I had gaps in.”

Receiving conditional offers to begin their studies in September, the students have proved themselves to rank at the very top of the 2023 cohort. Just 17% of Oxbridge applicants are offered a place following a notoriously rigorous application process.

The offers represent an even greater success as their chosen courses fall into the UK’s high-value STEM category (subjects including Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Quality candidates for STEM subjects are most in demand for the positive impact they have on society and the economy.

Congratulating the learners, Director of A-Levels, Ian Rees, said: “We are delighted by the success of Carys, Jacob and Luc. It’s a testament to their dedication to their studies and the excellent teaching support provided by our staff.

Our A-Level staff – in particular, Holly Richards, our MAT co-ordinator – have done a fantastic job supporting these learners through the extremely challenging Oxbridge application, aptitude test and interview process.

Myself and Dean Howells, Head of School for A-Levels, are extremely proud of all our learners who are pursuing their study and career goals. This significant achievement goes to show that learners who choose to study with Coleg y Cymoedd really do go further.”

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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