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Education

Wales’ oldest university building renovated

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LAST autumn, Lampeter-based building company, J&E Woodworks Ltd started working on the renovation of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s iconic St David’s Building on the University’s Lampeter campus.
Built between 1822 and 1827 to the designs of English architect and antiquary C R Cockerell, the Grade II* listed building in Lampeter has witnessed great change over the past two centuries.
With the University looking forward to celebrating its bicentenary in 2022, the building is being given a £2M refurbishment and modernisation plan to provide fit-for-purpose facilities for twenty-first-century learning and teaching.
The refurbishment is being undertaken in partnership with the Chin Kung Multi-Cultural Educational Foundation. This partnership has already seen the development of new provision delivered at Lampeter via the Academy of Sinology, including professional doctorate programmes and conferences as well as investment into the campus infrastructure.
The building reconfiguration and refurbishment work are being undertaken by local contractor J&E Woodwork Ltd which last year celebrated its fiftieth year of trading. With the company based in Lampeter, the project is already having a positive economic impact on the wider community.
Since being awarded the contract, J&E has extended its workforce by employing additional staff – three of whom were previously unemployed and another five regular sub-contractors who have been awarded six-month contracts. Two new apprentices have also been taken on by the company resulting in a total of four apprentices working on the project with an additional apprentice about to start with the team via the Cyfle Building Skills shared apprenticeship scheme.
“The majority of those working on the project are based in the Lampeter area and the average mileage to work for all employees and regular sub-contractors during this project is 6 miles one-way,” says Alan Thomas, Director of J&E Woodworks Ltd.
“Our workforce includes carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, electricians, painters and groundsmen – all of whom are regularly spending in the town, contributing to the local spend. All of the bespoke joinery required for this refurbishment is manufactured in our workshop in Lampeter and we’re also sourcing most of our materials from the local builders’ merchant, again contributing to the local economy,” adds Alan.
The St David’s building houses the campus’ reception, accommodation, conference facilities, Founders’ Library, Chapel and a range of multiple purpose meeting spaces. It is used extensively to support the academic work of the University including international conferences and lectures and its architectural character with traditional quad and cloisters also makes it a popular venue for external clients.
The Grade II* building comprises a quadrangle with four ranges that cross at the angles. An entrance tower is to the south and a T-shaped projection to the north. There are further extensions to the quadrangle, most notably to the north-west and south-east.
The refurbishment will include upgrading the current facilities to include en-suite accommodation as well as an enhanced library and multi-purpose spaces.
“The St David’s Building is a treasured part of the University estate and signifies the birthplace of higher education in Wales”, said Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the Lampeter campus. “I’m delighted that the refurbishment, whilst being sympathetic to its architectural heritage, will ensure that the facilities are commensurate with the needs of learning and teaching in today’s competitive higher education environment”.
“The University makes a valuable contribution to the region’s economy and I’m delighted that the refurbishment work is being undertaken by local suppliers, J & E Woodwork who are also ensuring that the supply chain provides work for companies in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.”

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Education

Back to school song competition

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CALLING all budding Ed Sheeran’s and Ariana Grande’s – it’s time to put your songwriting skills to the test!

Council leader and composer Cllr Emlyn Dole has written a song especially to welcome children back to school following the coronavirus pandemic.

Mynd ‘nôl i’r Ysgol is about the excitement of going back to school to catch up with teachers and friends, and all the fun the children will have when they are there.

The song has been recorded by popular Welsh singer Gwenda Owen from Pontyberem, who is also Cllr Dole’s wife.

Cllr Dole is asking Carmarthenshire primary school pupils for their help to finish it by writing another verse.

The winning pupils will have the opportunity to sing and record the song in a studio with Gwenda at the start of the new school year in September.

Cllr Dole said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone over the last few months, but particularly for our children who have been home from school and missing their friends and teachers.

“We wanted to celebrate their return to school, and I wrote this song to welcome them back and everything they have to look forward to.

“It wasn’t our intention to turn it into a competition at first, but then we had the idea to challenge our primary schools to write another verse.

“I am really excited to see what the children come up with and I would like to wish everyone the best of luck, but most importantly to please just have fun.”

Information on how to enter the competition has been sent to all primary schools in Carmarthenshire. The deadline for entries is Friday, July 17 and the winner will be announced at the start of the autumn term.

Video link: https://vimeo.com/434292752

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Education

Adoption worker’s back to school story

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RACHEL Cook has always wanted to write a children’s story.

But she has never been able to find the time to sit down and do it.

And then the coronavirus pandemic happened – which gave her some free time and also the inspiration too.

Rachel, who works for Carmarthenshire County Council as an adoption support worker, used her time during lockdown to write and illustrate Sammy Sloth Goes Back to School.

The story will hopefully help children who are feeling anxious about going back to school after being home for so long.

Rachel, aged 36, who has always worked with vulnerable children and children with additional learning needs, said: “I have always enjoyed being creative and have dreamed of writing short children’s stories and illustrating them for a long time.

“I never imagined that the first story I would write would be about a pandemic, but in times of so much change and uncertainty I found myself thinking of the many children I’ve supported over the years through transitions and how challenging this would be for so many.

“Children often find change particularly challenging, and with the changes approaching us as we begin to return to school, with it may come a mix of emotions and feelings. Stories are a natural way for children to learn about their feelings, to help them learn that their experiences of feeling worried or nervous about returning to school are faced by many.

“This story focuses on the familiar, particularly around relationships, as sometimes feelings of anxiety come from the unknown, and while we may not know everything about what school will look like in the coming months, by thinking of some of the things that will be staying the same, we can help our children feel more secure.”

The council’s translation team has translated the story into Welsh, and the council has arranged to print copies to put into the county’s primary schools.

Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “This is a wonderful story which I am sure will help a lot of children feeling uncertain about returning to school.

“I would like to both congratulate and thank Rachel; I am delighted that the book will be going into our primary schools for pupils to enjoy.”

The story is also available on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education for parents to download and read with their children.

Video link: https://vimeo.com/432814176

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Education

Funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners

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SCHOOLCHILDREN in Carmarthenshire will benefit from a funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement as part of Welsh Government’s ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ programme.

A digitally excluded learner is someone who does not have access to a suitable internet-connected device to take part in online learning activities from home.

The funding will be used to provide digitally excluded learners with repurposed school devices and 4G MiFi connectivity. Replacement devices will also be funded for schools out of the wider Hwb infrastructure programme.

In Carmarthenshire, schools have already started contacting parents and carers to identify digitally excluded learners, and the council’s IT department are identifying devices which can be repurposed with up-to-date software.

To date, more than 500 families who require further assistance with access to learning have been identified, with some further work to be carried out over the next week.

Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We welcome this extra funding from Welsh Government to provide families with the support they need so that their children can continue to learn. No child should be left behind because they do not have access to a computer or broadband.

“This is a huge logistical effort and colleagues from across the council are working together to deliver this support for families as quickly as possible.

“I would like to thank the schools for working hard with us on this, we have already made a good start; and I would also like to thank parents for their patience, support and understanding whilst we put this into place.”

The council’s Education and Children’s Services department have put together a Distance Learning Plan which sets out the way forward for learning in Carmarthenshire during the coronavirus outbreak.

The main aim is to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children and young people as far as possible so that they can quickly catch up when schools reopen; and access to learning and connectivity is one of the key priorities.

Carmarthenshire’s Distance Learning Plan can be found on the ‘Information and support for Parents’ page on the council website, visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/coronavirus

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