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British astronaut gives Swansea children guide to the stars thanks to Gower dark skies

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The first European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake, revealed secrets of the universe to a group of year 5 and year 6 primary school children under some of the darkest skies of the year in the Gower Peninsula in Wales at Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn.

The former Apache pilot, flight instructor, and test pilot led the six budding scientists to a stargazing camp on a dark night in November for their first experience of the wonders of the sky at night – as part of a Visit Wales and Welsh Government initiative.

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November is one of the best times of year to see dark skies, due to lower levels of water vapour, dust and haze.

The children were given a unique lesson in gazing up at the stars by one of the few people on the planet who has looked down at the earth from space, finding out how to spot the constellations that make up the Milky Way, neighbouring planets in our solar system as well as galaxies such as Andromeda.

Wales has some of the darkest, clearest and unpolluted skies in the world and it has the highest percentage of land with protected dark skies status on the planet.

Tim Peake, who recently attended COP26 conference to discuss solutions for climate change, said: “Looking down at the earth from the International Space Station gives a unique perspective of our fragile planet and how connected we are across the globe.

“And looking up at the night sky from Earth is as important as looking down from above. It reveals the wonders of our universe and shows children that they have a lifetime of limitless possibilities ahead of them.”

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“Not all young people have the same access to dark skies, but it’s so important to look up to the stars and be inspired for the future, to understand why we need to protect the planet and to ask the big questions about life.”

“Wales offers a huge number of opportunities for seeing the night’s sky at its best with Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Parks and of course low levels of light pollution.”

Tim Peake, the British astronaut pictured inside a dome on the top of Cefn Bryn on the Gower Peninsula is South Wales. Tim was stargazing with local school children and helping them discover the beauty of the dark skies in Wales.

The awe-inspired youngsters from Swansea are hoping to be astronauts in the future, most of whom had their first ever experience of witnessing the magic of the stars and completely dark skies at the event with Tim Peake.

Jessica Sadler from Sea View Primary School in Swansea said: “Now I’ve seen the dark skies I want to see them more often, and I’ll be looking out from now on.

“In the future, I hope to see a shooting star and I would love to travel to space one day.”

In December 2015, Tim became the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station and conduct a spacewalk during his six-month mission. He also ran the London marathon from space.

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His mission engaged more than two million students in outreach activities and he is an ambassador for STEM Education.

Tim regularly visits Wales and famously wished the people of Wales a Happy St David’s Day from aboard the International Space Station in 2016.

Wales’ vast network of three International Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Parks have been singled out by astronomers as world-beating places to go stargazing. There are also hundreds of other places, from small and accessible Dark Sky Discovery Sites to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething, said: “The Welsh Government is working hard to help Wales’ young people reach their full potential. So meeting someone who has done something truly out of this world like Tim Peake is an excellent way to inspire our younger generations to reach for the stars, helping them see that they can be what they aspire to be.

“As part of our economic vision to create a stronger, fairer, greener economic future, we’re looking to inspire more young people to take up STEM subjects – and be inspired by the world around us. What better way to do that than by learning more about space from your own doorstep.

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“The wonders of our dark skies in autumn and winter shows that Wales is an inspirational place to visit all year round.”

The children attended from Sea View Primary School in Swansea. Councillor Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration & Tourism at Swansea Council said: “We are delighted that after a sell-out event at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall, Tim decided to extend his stay in Swansea Bay and share his enthusiasm for our dark skies and his experiences in space with children from Sea View Community Primary School – what a privilege for them to meet a real-life astronaut!

“This recognition is timely as we are in the process of applying for Dark Sky Community Status for Gower. There are several places on the Gower Peninsula where you can appreciate the wide expanse of our night sky – it’s yet another way in which we can appreciate the outdoors and spend quality time in nature all year round.”

Lead image: Tim Peake, the British astronaut pictured on the top of Cefn Bryn on the Gower Peninsula is South Wales. He is alongside a dome especially set up to show local school children the wonder of stargazing and the beauty of the dark skies of Wales.

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Business

The Secret Hospitality Group provides enterprise education programme to three Swansea schools

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The Secret Hospitality Group is thanking the local community for its support during COVID by providing the Bumbles of Honeywood enterprise education programme to three local primary schools – The Grange Primary School, Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw and Brynmill Primary School.

Created by Swansea-based 2B Enterprising Ltd, The Bumbles of Honeywood is a suite of bilingual resources mapped to the national curriculum to help primary schools embed enterprise skills into their day-to-day learning. It’s delivered in schools via the 2B Enterprising Corporate Engagement Partner programme, which pairs businesses with local schools.

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As Corporate Engagement Partners, members of The Secret Hospitality Group have been visiting The Grange, Llwynderw and Brynmill primary schools to introduce the Bumbles of Honeywood programme and talk to pupils about what it’s like to run a business.

Cultivating entrepreneurship and enterprise skills from a young age has been shown to be of huge value in equipping pupils for their future lives and careers – and it’s now required as part of the national curriculum in Wales.

The Secret Hospitality Group is an example of entrepreneurship in action. It started life in 2017 with one venue, The Optimist in Uplands. In 2019 the company won the tender to run The Secret on Swansea seafront, and since then it has also taken on The Green Room next to Swansea Arena and the iconic Castellamare restaurant at Bracelet Bay.

Now the group has sold The Optimist to focus on landmark locations, creating venues that are as memorable as the views. As the company’s strapline says, “the view is just a bonus.”

The company was founded by brother and sister Lucy and Ryan Hole, who have since been joined by their siblings Amy and Tom. During the COVID lockdowns the team ran a coffee kiosk on the seafront in Swansea and the experience made them feel even more connected with the local community. Now they want to give something back by supporting three local schools.

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“Opening the kiosk was a turning point for us during the pandemic,” says Lucy. “We had such a great response from the community, and they rallied round when the kiosk was vandalised. The kiosk became a real hub and the beach just became alive. Now we want to give back to the community as a thank you for what they did for us during that hard time.”

Lucy and her siblings have chosen to support The Grange, Llwynderw and Brynmill primary schools because they are local to them and they have family links with two of them.

All the Hole siblings attended Brynmill Primary School, as did their father Greg Hole, who has run local news agents including Uplands News for decades. His father and grandfather, who ran the businesses before him, also attended Brynmill Primary School.

“We grew up in Uplands and used to walk through Brynmill Park to get to the school,” says Lucy. “We have really fond memories of the school, and all the teachers knew who we were because generations of the family had been there. It was a lovely school.”

Amy’s children attend The Grange Primary School and the family decided to also support Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw to help bring The Bumbles of Honeywood to a local Welsh medium school too.

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The Hole siblings have gone into each school to meet with the children, talk about their businesses and introduce the Bumbles of Honeywood programme. They have also welcomed children to their businesses so they can learn more about how restaurants are run.

“The children were great,” says Lucy. “They wanted to learn and asked a lot of good questions. They were eager to learn the skills taught by the Bumbles of Honeywood programme: to be confident, brave, kind and strong.”

She and Ryan also enjoyed being able to demonstrate that there are many different paths to forging a successful career: it doesn’t have to include going to university.

“We didn’t excel at school, but I think making pupils aware of the different routes they can take is really important,” says Lucy.

2B Enterprising founder Sue Poole, welcomes their contribution.

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“It’s really important for the children to meet and talk to homegrown talent,” she says. “Lucy and her sister and brothers are local entrepreneurs who show the children what you can achieve if you work hard and support each other.

“It’s about the support you have from your family, your community, with everybody working together, businesses will succeed.

“The Secret Hospitality Group is a young company that started off with one small restaurant in the Uplands and is now opening iconic venues right across Swansea Bay.

“It’s exciting from that perspective, and because of the history of the family, who have been entrepreneurial for probably over 100 years, I think they’re really great role models for young people.”

Lead image: Children from The Grange Primary School visit Castellamare with (L-R) Lucy Hole, The Secret Hospitality Group, Abigail Cooper, Operations Co-ordinator, 2B Enterprising, Mrs Tucker, Teaching Assistant, Ms Suff, Teacher, Mrs Minty, Year 1 & Year 2 Teacher and Mrs Griffiths, Year 1 & Year 2 Teaching Assistant.

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Charity

Swansea student in triathlon challenge for Heart Research

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A student at University of Wales Trinity St David is taking on UWTSD Swansea Triathlon on 28-29th May to raise vital funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and put a positive spin on what’s been a tough time for her family.

Sophie Taylor, originally from Cardiff, who is studying a BA in Product and Furniture Design at the university’s Swansea campus, decided to raise money for the BHF because her sister Hollie’s partner has a heart condition and is grateful for the medical research and treatment which has enabled him to live a happy life.

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Alex Martin, who now lives in Abergavenny and is originally from Hereford, found out he had congenital heart disease just before his 24th birthday during a medical examination when he was in the process of joining the army.

Alex was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, and the discovery meant he couldn’t sign up. But thanks to progress in science, surgeons were able to replace his heart valve, giving Alex a future with his partner, Hollie.

Alex says, “From a very young age I’ve always wanted to join the army, however, this was turned on its head at the age of 23. After undergoing an army medical check, it was discovered that I had heart valve disease and I had to have open heart surgery to replace the valve. Through the diagnosis and surgery my girlfriend Hollie has been my rock. We’ve been together since we were eighteen and our relationship has never been stronger.

“When Sophie approached me about doing a triathlon last year, I was super excited for her. Like everything, it was postponed, and here we are less than 2 weeks away from Sophie attempting her first multi-sport event. It was made even more special when she told me, that she wanted to do it for me! When I say, ‘me’, I mean on behalf of me for the BHF. I thought, ‘what a lovely idea,’ and was more than happy to help in any way possible. Be it training advice or letting her use my kit for the big day. I could not be prouder of her and cannot wait to see all the hard work pay off on race day.

“Without people like Sophie doing events like this and raising money for the BHF who knows where I would be. So, thank you Sophie – Now let’s go and smash race day!”

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Sophie and Alex

Sophie says she’s taking on the challenge to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one, “Life so far for my family hasn’t been easy and my mental health has suffered. When we found out about Alex’s condition it was a big strain on my sister and I saw how much it affected her. Myself and Hollie are very close and have always been rather active, but this is one of the biggest things I have ever done in my life. I can’t say it’s been easy juggling my second year at university and training as I have had to balance my time well; but it’s the smile on my sister’s and Alex’s face that will make this all worth it as this is just the beginning of what I want to do for the British Heart Foundation.

“I think Alex is the main reason I am doing this as he’s always been inspiring for me when it comes to sport as he’s always encouraged me to explore in different activities, and since his operation he has been limited to the activities he can do. So this is me doing it for him and showing myself also what I am capable of.

“I just want to give something to those who are battling every day, because if we all did the same the world would be a different place.”

She adds, “Since it was established the BHF has helped halve the number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK each year, but sadly every day hundreds of people still lose their lives to these conditions. It’s only thanks to support from people like us that BHF-funded researchers can help create new treatments. £24 could pay for two hours of research by an early career scientist, but every pound helps so I wanted to take on this challenge to do as much as I can for people living with heart conditions.”

Alex’s partner, Sophie’s sister Hollie says, “I could not be prouder of my sister for getting out there and doing something she has never done before. More than anything I would like her to be proud of herself and realise how far she has come. Like many students, Soph has been struggling with her mental health since starting her degree during the height of covid. It really took its toll on her. However, she has used this triathlon as a challenge to help her overcome her struggles.

“When Sophie mentioned she would like to do the Triathlon for the British Heart Foundation, Alex and I were choked by the gesture, as the charity has been of huge support to us and our families over the last few years.

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“In November 2019, Alex was sat in an army medical room unaware that he was waiting to be told that his life was not going to turn out how he planned it to be. The medical uncovered the signs of a congenital heart condition known as a bicuspid aortic valve which caused the dilation of his ascending aorta. Through many consultations and appointments, it was clear that Alex required urgent treatment.

“In October 2020, with a number of setbacks due to the coronavirus global pandemic, Alex finally underwent open heart surgery at the age of 24. Since, his surgery, Alex has made a speedy recovery, and although the dream of an army career has been halted, he is able to live his life as close to normal as possible and looks to join Sophie in her next Triathlon Event, whenever that maybe.

“Both our families have recognised that without the support, research and aid offered from the British Heart Foundation and the cardiac specialist, the outcome of Alex’s story would be very different.”

Jayne Lewis BHF Fundraising Manager said: “We are so grateful to Sophie for supporting the BHF’s research. For more than 60 years the public’s generosity has funded BHF research that has turned ideas that once seemed like ‘science fiction’ into treatments that save lives every day. But millions of people are still waiting for the next breakthrough.

“Today in Wales around 340,000 people are living with the daily burden of heart and circulatory diseases. We urgently need the public’s support to keep our lifesaving research going, and to discover the treatments and cures of the future. It is only with donations from the public that the BHF can keep its lifesaving research going, helping us turn science fiction into reality.”

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To support Sophie, go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sophie-taylor91

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Education

Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m

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Every child will have the opportunity to benefit from music education the Welsh Government have announced as part of plans for a national music service.

As the National Plan for Music Education is published, the Minister for Education has confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.

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The Government say the plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs.

Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.

The plan includes a review on music tutors’ terms and conditions, to ensure they are treated equitably and are recognised properly.

It also includes a ‘First Experiences’ programme to offer children in primary schools a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, delivered by trained and skilled music practitioners.

A ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative forms part of the plan, including opportunities for children and young people in secondary schools to gain industry experience through working alongside musicians and creative industries

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The will also be a new national instrument and equipment library to support access to a resource bank to be shared across Wales.

The Welsh Government say these programmes will be rolled out from September 2022, supporting schools and settings to give all children and young people from the ages of 3 to 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as singing and making music in our schools and our communities.

Plans mean the National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Local Government Association co-ordinating the Music Service’s programmes with a wide range of organisations. It will help schools and settings in their delivery of the Curriculum for Wales and provide more diverse opportunities for children and young people to experience music outside schools and settings.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Education Minister Jeremy Miles visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea for the launch of the National Music Service (Image: Mike Hall)
First Minister Mark Drakeford and Education Minister Jeremy Miles visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea for the launch of the National Music Service (Image: Mike Hall)
First Minister Mark Drakeford and Education Minister Jeremy Miles visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea for the launch of the National Music Service (Image: Mike Hall)

First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to see a cluster of primary school children taking part in a ‘Play Along’ session led by Swansea Music Service.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we are delivering on this pledge.

“Learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing and a lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music. We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to make sure that our children and young people are able to play a full part in these. This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.”

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The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said: “Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument.

“I remember how important it was to me to be able to have music tuition when I was in school and to learn the baritone and to play in brass ensembles. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music tuition – the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills is too often limited by cost and affordability nowadays, so we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people, so that they can learn and experience the joy of music.

“The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world.”

WLGA Chief Executive Chris Llewelyn said: “We are proud to work with the Welsh Government on delivering this vital service to children across Wales. Many families in Wales can’t afford an instrument, and this funding will go a long way to opening doors to children across Wales to have the opportunity of learning an instrument.

“Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to children. Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”

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(Lead image: Mike Hall)

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