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Single mum who fought on COVID-19 frontline as nurse celebrates masters degree with daughters

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A nurse of fourteen years has advanced her career with a master’s degree at Swansea University, all while being a single mother to two young children and working on the frontline.

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Bethany Kelly, 34, from Southampton, worked as a diabetes specialist nurse for several years.

After a personal experience with the condition, Bethany successfully applied to study for a part-time degree in MSc Diabetes Practice at Swansea University Medical School.

“During my first pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and as a result, I’ve had first-hand knowledge of how it can affect people’s lives,” said Bethany.

“I was already looking for a new challenge, and when I was asked to do diabetes review clinics when I came back from maternity leave, I knew this was an excellent opportunity to enhance diabetes care and become an expert clinical practitioner.

“I was awarded a full scholarship, without which, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”

Bethany started her degree in 2019 and had to employ her time management skills to balance her studies with her full-time job and caring for her two daughters.

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“I struggled with mummy guilt, something I think all mother’s experience,” said Bethany. “I was fortunate that my girls are both so well behaved and understanding.

“I worked most weekends and evenings, which meant sacrificing time with them.

“Often, they would ask to go to the park, and I would have to say ‘just one more minute’ as I typed the last paragraph of an essay.

“My youngest, who was six at the time, asked if I would have a cap and gown like in High School Musical, and so every time I missed something, or they had to wait for me to finish my work, I would promise they could wear mine when I graduated; I’m so pleased I’ve been able to keep that promise.”

Bethany Kelly (Image: Swansea University)

Unfortunately, this new schedule soon unravelled when Covid hit.

“When the pandemic began, I was given additional days to cover the increased workload.

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“With Covid, the treatment is steroids, which we know causes increased diagnosis’ of T2 diabetes and also steroid-induced hyperglycaemia,” Bethany explains.

“The Diabetes Practice team were amazing and adapted to allow me to carry on with my degree.

“If it weren’t for the hard work that the course leaders and lecturers put into the course, I would never have been able to do it.

“That little bit of breathing room they provided during the first wave was essential, but soon my new normal was fitting in my studies wherever I could,” said Bethany.

“We also had to add homeschooling to the mix, and we would often be sat around the table together doing our work.”

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With national policy constantly changing, Bethany knew many patients were struggling, confused and distressed. To alleviate some of their fears, Bethany and a team of fellow healthcare professionals introduced Team Diabetes 101.

“We wanted to provide the diabetes community with a secure base to gain reassurance, access reliable resources and receive emotional support,” Bethany explains.

“The social media account went on to win two national awards, and we also published two articles in leading diabetes journals.”

Bethany has also managed to find time to take on the role of Co-Chair for the Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) Forum UK.

“The DSN Forum UK aims to share best practice by providing diabetes specialist nurses across the UK with a supportive network.”

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“Our website is designed to help healthcare professionals navigate the vast amount of ever-changing online resources concerning diabetes nursing and diabetes care.”

Most recently, Bethany started a new job as Lead Community Diabetes Specialist Nurse in Wiltshire, and in a full-circle moment, Bethany has joined Swansea University’s Diabetes Practice programme as module lead for its community-based module.

On her new role, Bethany said: “The work the team do to provide nurses with access to further education is astounding, and in my opinion, there is no other university that will go this far to create equal access to higher education.

“I’m delighted to be joining the programme, helping students access the most up-to-date information about caring for people living with diabetes.”

Dr Rebecca Thomas, Swansea University’s MSc Diabetes Practice Co-programme Director, said: “Bethany has worked extremely hard. She has taken great pride in completing all tasks set to a very high standard while juggling an extremely challenging time in work.

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“It has been a pleasure to watch her grow within her roles and throughout her degree, and I am delighted that she will be joining the programme to help future students do the same.”

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Education

Neath Abbey Welsh medium primary school given go-ahead

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Neath Port Talbot Council’s new Rainbow Coalition Cabinet has agreed to move forward with plans to open Neath Port Talbot’s first ever Welsh medium primary “starter school” at Neath Abbey.

The new Welsh medium starter school in premises previously occupied by Abbey Primary School at St John’s Terrace, Neath Abbey, could welcome its first pupils next January if fully approved.

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Part of the council’s strategy to increase Welsh medium education across the county borough, the Cabinet agreed to move the starter school plan to its next stage – publication of a statutory proposal to establish the new school.

The starter school model is used when establishing a new school, gradually allowing the facilities and staff to be used efficiently while the school grows to its full potential.

Under the plans, £200,000 would be set aside for refurbishments and improvements including the provision of learning walls and digital equipment ensuring the school can deliver the new curriculum.

Cllr Nia Jenkins, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Training, said: “This council has a ten year target to increase the number of Year 1 children taught through the medium of Welsh from 16.8% in 2020/21 to 31% (460 pupils) by 2032 and this proposed new school will help reach that target.

“It also complements the national vision for the Welsh language, to have a million Welsh speakers by 2050.”

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(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Education

Pontarddulais school’s physical education department supported by Amazon

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A comprehensive school in Pontarddulais has received a £1,000 donation from the Amazon fulfilment centre in Swansea.

Pontarddulais Comprehensive School plans to use the donation to purchase new safety mats for use in PE lessons.

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They say this will allow their pupils to enjoy activities such as gymnastics and inspire more pupils to follow in the footsteps of their peers who have recently succeeded at a national level.

Christopher Law, General Manager at Amazon in Swansea, said: “At Amazon, we recognise the value of extra-curricular development, and we are pleased to lend a helping hand to Pontarddulais Comprehensive School with this donation. We wish the school well as it seeks to inspire and engage the leaders of tomorrow through both academic and physical education.”

Nigel Hughes, who is an engineer at Amazon in Swansea and put the school forward for the donation, added: “My children receive a fantastic education and genuine support at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, and it’s great that Amazon is providing this donation to help fund new equipment.”

Julie Evans, Area Coordinator for Health and Wellbeing at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, said: “We want to thank Christopher and the Amazon team in Swansea. This kind and generous donation will support us in continuing to create the high-quality facilities required for a first-class educational experience. It will be a great addition allowing us to strengthen and expand our school’s physical activity opportunities.”

The donation to Pontarddulais Comprehensive School was made as part of Amazon’s programme to support the communities in and around its operating locations across the UK.

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(Lead image: Pontarddulais Comprehensive School)

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Education

Council to review Swansea Valley ‘Super School’ decision made by previous administration

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A reprieve could be on the cards for Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools as Neath Port Talbot’s new coalition administration say they want to review the decision made to create a new ‘super school’ in Pontardawe.

The new administration says it wants to establish if an alternative way to bring 21st Century School standards to the Swansea Valley can be achieved, which would be more acceptable to the community.

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The decision to establish a new £22.7m English-medium 3-11 school and specialist Learning Support Centre for pupils with a statement of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Pontardawe to replace Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools was taken by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet on October 20th, 2021.

The controversial decision triggered a process of communicating with local schools around the next steps and general planning for the construction of the new school and swimming pool.

A successful tender exercise took place to secure a contractor to begin stage one of a two stage process.

Neath Port Talbot Council say that under its own procurement rules, it says it has been necessary to approve the appointment of the contractor to undertake Stage 1 contract works only, with no obligation on the council to proceed to the second stage. Stage 1 includes developing the design information; carrying out assessments of traffic and site conditions; ground investigations; and obtaining planning approval.

The council say that this first stage contract does not commit them to the construction of the school and pool, with a further contract being entered into at Stage 2, which is the actual construction phase. 

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It adds that allowing stage 1 works to progress will ensure that the opportunities to meet the timescales of the October 2021 decision could still be realised if a review does not highlight any changes are needed to the project.

This will avoid further anxiety for the school staff and families due to unnecessary delays, particularly important for those pupils in Godre’rgraig Primary School who are currently educated in temporary accommodation awaiting the new school.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they will now start discussions with Welsh Government Ministers to establish what information they might require from the council. This will inform the consultation process which the council will undertake with stakeholders.

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