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Neath Port Talbot

Water babies make a splash at hospital hydro pools

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Opening up the hydrotherapy pool at Neath Port Talbot Hospital has led to lifesaving skills being taught in dedicated swimming classes to help safeguard babies and toddlers from drowning, Swansea Bay University Health Board have said.

The health board say changes in the way their hydrotherapy pools are managed mean that when they are not being used for clinical sessions with patients, they can now be offered for community use out of hours.

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Water Babies, a group who deliver swimming programmes to pre-school aged children, is now using the pool at Neath Port Talbot Hospital. 

The sessions in the hydrotherapy pool are fun but have an extremely serious benefit.

In the UK, drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death among babies and children. 

In most cases, the shock of sudden submersion causes children to panic, but introducing infants to water from very early on can make a real difference. 

By the age of two, toddlers can be taught to fall in, surface, swim to the side and hold on.

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An affordable hire fee from the health board and a grant from Neath Port Talbot council has already helped the group teach lifesaving skills to over 100 babies and parents. They hope to double that amount by the end of May.

“We’re delighted to be able to hold our classes at Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s hydrotherapy pool – it’s an excellent facility,” said Aletia Griffiths, director of Water Babies, who also hold classes at Singleton Hospital’s hydrotherapy pool. 

“In the last few years, at least 10 tiny Water Babies pupils in the UK have saved their own lives, five of whom were just two years old at the time.

“It’s fantastic what vital skills children can learn, and it’s so important that they do so as soon as possible.

“As well as water safety skills and enjoying the water, another key focus is to help strengthen the bond between carer and child.” 

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Water Babies runs a pre-school swimming programs at Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s pool (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

 Water Babies are among the groups who have hired the facility following changes made to the way hydrotherapy pools are run within the health board. 

The health board’s engagement programme Changing for the Future proposed a series of changes to the way urgent and planned care services are delivered following Covid. 

Following public consultation, Neath Port Talbot hospital will become a centre of excellence for rehabilitation. 

The hydrotherapy pool at the hospital, along with another at Singleton Hospital, are now the focus for hydrotherapy resources and sessions for Swansea Bay patients. The older pool at Morriston Hospital has since closed. 

The pools at Neath Port Talbot and Singleton have already seen an increase in numbers benefiting from them, with a wide range of people from babies to elderly patients using the pools to manage debilitating short and long-term conditions. 

Daniel Clarke, Musculoskeletal physio assistant; physiotherapists Holly Speare and Kristen Bucknall along with Jordanna Roberts, physio clinical lead (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The health board hopes to encourage more community groups and voluntary sector organisations to hire the pool in Neath Port Talbot outside of NHS operational hours to aid their health and wellbeing. 

Jordanna Roberts, physio clinical lead across Neath Port Talbot and Singleton hospitals, highlighted further advantages from the group’s use of the pool, along with general benefits.

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She said: “There is a social element which has been missing for many during Covid, so the lessons are a chance for mums to network and build up supportive parenting relationships. 

“Physically any exercise and movement has a multitude of health benefits, including improving mood, sleep, physical strength and mobility, alongside preventing against chronic health conditions. 

“The warm and buoyant water within the pool reduces joint load and can make stretching and movement more effective and comfortable. 

“Following the success of the Water Babies class, we are keen to work with other partners to increase overall population access. 

“We’d be keen to hear from any groups interested in hiring out the pool pools at both Neath Port Talbot and Singleton.” 

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To hire the hydrotherapy pools at Neath Port Talbot Hospital and Singleton Hospital, contact 01792 285383 or email Jordanna.Roberts@wales.nhs.uk

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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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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Transport for Wales

New trains for Wales and Borders services go on show

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Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.

Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.

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TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.

Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.

Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”

Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.

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“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.

“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.

“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.

Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.

“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.

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“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.

Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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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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