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Education

Phased roll-out of free primary school meals for all to start in Neath Port Talbot

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Neath Port Talbot Council is to start its phased roll-out of free primary school meals to all reception children this September.

The roll-out is a part of the Welsh Government’s commitment for every primary school pupil to receive a free school meal by 2024.

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Other primary school year groups will follow reception in a phased approach throughout the year. This is to ensure the school’s catering team are able to manage the additional demand placed upon it. The offer will then be extended to all Year 1 pupils after the October half term, with the ambition of including Year 2 pupils as soon as possible afterwards. Further information on when other year groups will receive free school meals will be announced in the coming months. 

Councillor Nia Jenkins, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Training, said: “In response to the current cost-of-living crisis, the council is doing everything we can to ensure no child in the county borough goes hungry.

“On top of the £2 million hardship relief scheme the Coalition agreed on last week, we will be implementing the roll-out of free school meals as quickly as possible. We would ask for your patience as we build capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation and work towards a full school rollout over the next three years.
  
“We understand that all families face challenges caused by the crisis, and we are committed to supporting families through this difficult time.”

Children who already receive free school meals will not be affected by the roll-out. 

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Environment

Swansea University named one of country’s best green spaces

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The spectacular and diverse grounds of Swansea University’s two campuses have once again been judged among the best green spaces in Wales.

The University is celebrating after being awarded a Green Flag, the international mark of a quality park or green space and recognises excellent visitor facilities, high environmental standards, and a commitment to delivering great quality green space.

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It has also retained its Green Heritage Site Accreditation which it gained for the first time last year. This special award, endorsed by Cadw, recognises sites that are both historically significant and meet Green Flag criteria.

Grounds manager Paul Edwards paid tribute to his teams’ efforts at both University campuses: “We are immensely proud to have retained both the Green Flag and Heritage Award status. Our sites offer very different challenges and rewards and it is through the hard work and dedication of the team that both are to the highest standards for the enjoyment of our students, staff and visitors.

“The grounds team’s in-depth knowledge ensures that the historic nature of the Singleton site and the beachside setting of the Bay Campus will continue to be preserved and enhanced for future generations.”

Swansea University received a Green Flag Award for its two campuses

Swansea University Registrar and Chief Operating Officer Niamh Lamond said: “We are extremely pleased to have retained the Green Flag Award for five consecutive years. This recognises the hard work and commitment of our outstanding grounds’ team in developing and managing our green spaces in a sustainable manner, whilst appreciating the historic and scientific nature of these spaces.

“Our grounds and gardens are important to the wellbeing of our staff, students and local communities and valued immensely by the University.”

This year the University is among 265 green spaces – ranging from formal gardens and parks to allotments and churchyards – across the country have received the prestigious Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award.

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The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. Each site was visited by expert judges who looked at criteria including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement.

Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “Our local green spaces have a vital role to play in connecting us to nature. These awards go to prove that Wales’ parks and similar areas are doing a wonderful job in providing quality places to relax and enjoy.”

Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

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Construction

University expertise to help new ‘Living Building’ residents to grow own food on roof

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Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) is a key partner in a pioneering ‘Biophilic Living‘ initiative which is said to provide a radical new approach to living and working within the city.

A first for the UK, the University says this unique project will trial a new, scalable model that is set to change the way we conceive of inner-city housing in Wales.

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The construction will transform the former Woolworths store on Oxford Street in central Swansea – opposite Waterstones bookshop – and feature a new adjoining 13-storey structure.

It will be a mixed-use building with affordable and shared ownership housing, retail and low carbon commercial office space.

Residents will have the capacity to grow their own produce using the integral urban farm facility. Featuring two south-facing greenhouses at roof level, the building will use an aquaponics system, developed by Swansea University academics, designed to produce up to 4.5 tonnes of fruits, vegetables, salads and herbs per year.

Aquaponics is a food production system that creates a continuous cycle where waste produced by fish, living in on-site tanks, adds nutrients to the water which feeds the greenhouse plants. The water is then filtered and recirculated back into the system. The process will be explained in an educational public display on the ground floor of the tower

The project has been awarded funding through the Welsh Government Innovative Housing Programme.

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Professor Geoff Proffitt, head of biosciences at Swansea University, explains: “The Biophilic Living development will clearly be an inspirational building for the people who will live and work there, but it is more than an exciting home and workplace. The building will be driven through with cutting-edge biological, design, and engineering innovations. It will be a living, working example of great design, innovation and existing technology combining to support and nurture human health and wellbeing.

“The Biophilic Living plan and the ethos that underpins its design and development is a focus for change, the start of a new sustainable, Biophilic urban regeneration of Swansea. If we are to fully respond to increasing global challenges, urban development and redevelopment will have to take a lead.

“The project will contribute to local and global goals to address the climate change emergency, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Architects, designers, engineers and scientists will need to combine their skills to respond to these complex and immediate challenges. Biophilic Living is our first example of this collaborative approach”.

Swansea-based Hacer Developments is behind the scheme which has been designed by Swansea architects Powell Dobson. It is a result of extensive collaborative working among a range of local organisations, including Swansea University, the Active Building Centre, Public Health Wales, Swansea Community Farm and Sero Homes Ltd.

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The ‘living building’ is being funded by a mixture of private sector funding and funding from the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme, Pobl and the Development Bank of Wales.

The building is earmarked for completion by the end of 2023.

(Lead image: Powell Dobson / Hacer Developments)

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Education

Specialist training provider opens new Neath office to support 16-18 year-old unemployed learners

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Specialist Wales-wide training provider, Itec, has opened a new office in Neath to support 16 – 18 year old unemployed learners in the area. 

The 1765 sqft space in a Grade II listed building on Wind Street will be home to five permanent members of staff and provide facilities for up to 60 learners.   

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The centre hopes to create new jobs within the local community and attract young people in Neath and surrounding areas who may be at odds with their future.  

Itec, a leading Wales-wide training provider for 40 years, provides life-changing opportunities to young people and aims to get thousands of teens into work through the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales+ programme in the next five years.  

The new Neath office will be used as a space for local learners to access to learn new skills and gain qualifications and employment opportunities such as retail, hairdressing and barbering, customer service, childcare and business and IT.  

The brand-new facilities at the Itec centre include: a chill out room where learners can spend time to relax and socialise, two large training rooms and a dedicated room for one-to-one coaching for learners and their tutors. 

The centre will be led by former international rugby referee and Itec area manager for Neath, Hugh Watkins, who has joined Itec to help grow the organisation across Neath, Swansea and West Wales.  

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Hugh said: “Mental health and wellbeing is at the forefront of the design of the new space in Neath as evidence is showing that after two years of living through a pandemic, this is what our young learners need most, alongside helping them take the first step on the career ladder. 

“We’ve had an amazing reception from learners since we announced we were creating a base in Neath and are looking forward to helping of them on their journey into the world of work, making a real difference to employment prospects and opportunities in the area. 

“Whether a young person knows what they want to do or needs the support to help them think about taking the next steps, we can build a tailored programme of support that is individual to them. That might be helping them build their qualifications, organising work experience or even offering the support they need to start thinking about career opportunities and what comes next for them.” 

Jobs Growth Wales+ gives 16-18 year olds living in Wales, the skills, qualifications and experience they need to kick start their career, with support to get into learning at a higher level, an apprenticeship or employment. 

Julie Dyer, ITEC Skills and Employment’s head of operations, said, “Our new Neath centre is the start of what will be a life changing development for young people in the area – creating real opportunities for their future. 

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“We’ve been really impressed by the response from local businesses with employers from across the area already actively engaged with the centre, showing the demand for young people to fill vacancies and train with local companies – it’s an exciting time for the area.” 

Itec employs 180 people across 15 offices in Cardiff, Newport, Cwmbran, Blackwood, Pontypridd, Bridgend, Swansea, Monmouth, Barry, Aberdare, Brynmawr and Neath. 

(Lead image: Wales News Service)

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