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Zero Waste is for life, not just for EWWR!

The last week of November 2020 is European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) which is organised by our Circular Economy for Youth project partners ACR+

Working with some local community partners in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Pontydysgu’s CEYOU project has supported the setting up of a brand new circular economy initiative Zero Waste Cynon. Their website and social media presence launched at the start of November and they have organised a number of activities to coincide with EWWR. Their ethos is that zero waste and reusable alternatives should be accessible to everyone.

We believe in a world where zero waste is not only for those who can afford it, where environmentally friendly options are not prohibited by cost, where everyone can make a difference.

As part of EWWR they are asking local residents to contribute to a crowd sourced food waste reducing recipe book and to share their top tips on waste reduction. There are also competitions for 0-6 and 7-11 year olds to share their zero-waste lunch ideas and design a zero waste poster.

Beyond EWWR the initiative hopes to continue into the future by providing an online environment to both collect ideas and showcase local opportunities for reuse and recycling.


Social Media Resilience

It has been a whirlwind couple of months with bid writing and project work and I’m slowly getting back on top of it all, which means I can finally announce a new media literacy project – Social Media Resilience Toolkit or SMaRT-eu which seems particularly timely in this age of conflicting and confusing health advice, bad science, badly presented statistics and alternative truth.

The project is lead by our Portuguese colleagues at COFAC, part of Lusófona University, who are experts in their field. We worked with them previously on a participatory internet radio project RadioActive and also more recently in Media In Action and are excited to be working with them again.

SMaRT-eu will work with intergenerational groups to provide tools and training on topics such as how to read media – particularly social media, how to navigate with critical consciousness in the social media environment which is saturated with instantaneous information, as well as how to use digital media to engage communities for social good.

You can find out more from the project website

New report on Artificial Intelligence in Vocational Education and Training

The Taccle AI project has launched it’s 74 page report exploring the use of AI in policy, process and practice in VET.

For VET teachers and trainers, there are many possible uses of AI including new opportunities
for adapting learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment,
analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in
guidance for learners.

The project interviewed Vocational Educators and AI experts from across Europe and found that AI poses significant changes to the VET curriculum and pedagogical processes. These changes require important institutional and organisational adaptations, adjustments and improvements, such as better integration into the school organisation by well established bigger teams of VET Teachers, development of learning projects by teacher teams at the school, avoiding becoming too dependent on Industry support, and stronger involvement of collaborative AI projects between training centres and local industry.

Find out more about the project on the Taccle AI website and Download the full report here.

Youth Circular Economy Initiatives are Growing in Pontypridd

In 2019, young people and students from Europe and all over the world began to take to the streets to demand action to halt environmental and climate change. On one day of action in March organizers said there were more than 2,000 protests in 125 countries. The student movement was inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, now nominated for a Nobel Prize two years in a row, who kicked off a global movement after she sat outside Swedish parliament every Friday beginning last August. Young people have successfully elevated the need for the environment to be included in the school curriculum.
The development of the circular economy is seen as central to reducing damage to the environment and developing positive change. In 2015 the European Commission adopted an action plan to help accelerate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy, boost global competitiveness, promote sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs. The Welsh Government is currently reviewing the responses to its 2020 consultation on circular economy which includes their ambition to become world leaders in zero waste, low carbon and sharing resources fairly.
The Circular Economy for Youth or CEYOU project started at the end of 2019 in the midst of climate strikes and extinction rebellion protests. Our aim, to promote circular economy initiatives to young people as a proactive way of combating the pressing issues of climate change and sustainability.
The project is active in North Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Belgium, France and Wales and despite current restrictions around physical meetings has been successful in supporting and initiating a number of initiatives.
In Italy a series of online Hackathons were held where youth participants worked on ideas for a circular economy business with the best ideas being taken forward for development and a prize awarded to the winning team.
In Wales a younger group of environmental activists participated in online workshops to produce a guide for ‘Staying Green in Quarantine’. The same group reconvened via Zoom a few more times to work with local artists on the themes of biodiversity, biomimicry, and the future, the results of which are now part of the online exhibition Pontypridd 2120. The youngsters were still keen to do more and had suggested growing their own food and making their own compost as part of the staying green guide, so CEYOU in partnership with Pontypridd Friends of the Earth launched Grow Pontypridd, to support and encourage people to grow and share edible produce. With small contributions from both the Town Council and CEYOU to get started, CEYOU’s coordinators Pontydysgu were able to apply for funding from InterlinkRCT. The project has now delivered around 50 home grow veg packs to local residents who would not otherwise be able to get started growing veg due to the financial implications or because of isolating due to covid19. Many of the packs were delivered to residents’ doors by the kind volunteers at the local food bank, others were dropped for collection at community centres.To make the packs, members of the community donated seeds, seedlings and pots and the project provided compost, growing instructions and a welcome note. Our team of youth volunteers made up packs and added in hand drawn pictures and notes.The adults dealt with the tricker issues of coordination, pickups and deliveries.Following the initial success the local council donated compost from their green waste recycling.The social media publicity prompted a local community centre to contact us asking for advice on how to turn their disused raised beds into a community vegetable garden and so yet another initiative began, Little Garden, a family orientated community garden with a long term plan to become a food coop.In parallel to the growing projects CEYOU is also arranging an online youth forum on Circular Economy at which young people from Pontypridd will be able to discuss the pressing issues of post Covid19 recovery and formulate an action plan alongside local government representatives from both Westminster and the Senedd. More information to follow!
Central to CEYOU is the bringing together of youth organisations and networks, together with Circular Economy associations at European, regional and municipal levels including local government. The aim is not only to exchange initiatives and best practice but to establish a permanent forum for dialogue including around policy and practice. Such goals will develop the capacities of all participant organisations and build the foundation for longer term collaboration in this area. For more information contact the CEYOU project coordinator or check our facebook and website.

Chatbot for Career Chat

Pontypridd company’s CareerChat chatbot project selected as a finalist for the CareerTech Challenge Prize.

Pontydysgu is very happy to be part of a consortium, led by DMH Associates, selected as a finalist for the CareerTech Challenge Prize! The South Wales based ed-tech company specialises in careers based technologies and ICT training for educators.

Pontydysgu’s director Graham Attwell explained the innovative chatbot, CareerChat, as a chatbot providing a personalised, guided career journey experience for working adults aged 24 to 65 in low skilled jobs in three major cities: Bristol, Derby and Newcastle. He says ‘It offers informed, friendly and flexible high-quality, local contextual and national labour market information including specific course/training opportunities, and job vacancies to support adults within ‘at risk’ sectors and occupations’

CareerChat incorporates advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies, database applications and Natural Language Processing and can be accessed on computers, mobile phones and devices. It allows users to reflect, explore, find out and identify pathways and access to new training and work opportunities.

Nesta and the Department for Education have invested in the grant funding programme, offering a cohort of 11 grantees a package of grant funding alongside non-financial support. Nesta is delivering the CareerTech Challenge in partnership with the Department for Education as part of their National Retraining Scheme. Pontydysgu, based in Pontypridd and employing a team of remote workers across Europe, is one of those grantees

Nesta research suggests that more than six million people in the UK are currently employed in occupations that are likely to radically change or entirely disappear by 2030 due to automation, population ageing, urbanisation and the rise of the green economy.

In the nearer-term, the coronavirus crisis has intensified the importance of this problem. Recent warnings suggest that a prolonged lockdown could result in 6.5 million people losing their jobs. Of these workers, nearly 80% do not have a university degree. 

The solutions being funded through the CareerTech Challenge are designed to support people who will be hit the hardest by an insecure job market over the coming years. This includes those without a degree, and working in sectors such as retail, manufacturing, construction and transport.

The CareerTech Challenge runs from October 2020 until March 2021, for more information visit


Ponty’s Young (Online) Activists

Last week CEYOU hosted the first online meeting for the Youth branch of Pontypridd Young Friends of the Earth.

The group have been very active over the past year attending Fridays for Future School Strikes and organising a hustings for local parliamentary candidates to discuss their views and policies relating to Climate Change.

Everyday life has changed significantly in a short space of time. Supermarket restrictions and limiting our time out of the house may lead to an increase in purchasing products wrapped in plastic and relying on takeaways in plastic tubs, combine this with reduced waste management and recycling services and its easy to fall into bad habits.

Their task for our Youth Forum this week was to come up with a top ten tips for staying green during the Covid19 quarantine and lockdown period.

The group were full of ideas for the lockdown from planning your ideal garden in Minecraft to redecorating your home for a change of scenery to leaving chalk messages of hope and positivity on the pavements.

Here are the top 10 which, in true Circular Economy style you are free to use, reuse and repurpose but please give attribution to and YoungFOEPontypridd.


Don’t teach code

I just stumbled across this blog title in my drafts from over a year ago. ‘Don’t teach code’ Which is timely as I just arranged to start a ‘Code Club’ at one of our local Primary schools.

The benefits of 7 year olds in Wales learning code are similar to those of them learning Ancient Greek; it’s not going to help them tie their shoelaces. What they do need is to be able to solve problems.

If they were trying to learn the story of the Iliad given the source material of Venetus A, learning Ancient Greek would be very useful. And if they are trying to create a simple computer game, knowing how to use something like Scratch would be advantageous. In both these situations however, the problem comes first.

Our young people and educators need the skills and resources to adapt to changes, to be able to make mistakes in order to learn from them, and to be able to play and test and experiment without necessarily having to find a correct answer. Space and time for this is sadly lacking in today’s climate of continuous assessment. Hopefully as an extra-curricular activity we will have the freedom to explore.

Any suggestions for a better name than ‘Code Club’!?


Our Town in Xylagani

The OurTown project team met recently in Xylagani Primary school to discuss the next stages of the project. We now have a process by which we can add multiple challenges to the same QR code and link the code to a geographical location using Google maps. Each time the user scans the same code, a different challenge will be presented to them.

Our next step is to continue creating a bank of challenges and linking them to the codes. We will be working closely with local schools and community groups so if you have an idea for a set of activities linked to specific places in your town please get in touch.

On the second day o the meeting we visited the Folklore museum of Xylagani, a beautiful old mill which had been given to the people of the town. The collection comprised of artefacts and photographs donated by local families to tell the story of their migration back to Greece and share their ways and traditions. The exhibits will be accompanied by QR codes with challenges for pupils relating directly to their own culture and history within the museum.

Ponty gets Cycle-ing

It’s not unusual to find the Pontydysgu staff in a bar on a Saturday but I was there before the staff this weekend.

Pontypridd’s Clwb y Bont played host to an event to promote the Cycle project. Cycle aims to promote circular economy ideas to teachers and trainers in adult learning who can in turn promote the ideas through their work with learners. Fortunately Pontypridd is a hotbed of circular activities and I am still being contacted by people who want to get involved.

Circular economy sounds far more complicated than it is. It means that instead of buying a product, using it and then throwing it away, we aim to get the absolute maximum use out of it, ideally reusing it over and over. The aim is to produce zero waste. This requires thought and planning at all levels of the production/supply chain but it is something that everyone can play a part in.

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At the start of 2019 I sat down with a local group of adult educators and community group leaders, told them about the Cycle project and asked what sort of event would be most useful for them. They knew far more about circular economy that I did!

What resulted was a day long circular economy and sustainability festival in the glorious Welsh summer combining workshops and discussions about implementing circular economy ideas in practice, about teaching those ideas to others and about making what adult educators already do more circular. At the same time there were practical demonstrations of the work and teaching including willow craft, home brew and sustainable gardening.

We called it Your Ponty Needs you because the whole town needs to pull together to reduce waste and improve sustainability.

A Dysgu Decade

It’s my 10 year workiversary this month. I started out at Pontydusgu in 2009 as a one day per week researcher on a Leonardo project, interviewing and writing training materials for employers on how to make necessary adjustments for staff with disabilities. Today I manage the projects and funding applications for the UK branch of the company. If you had asked me 10 years ago I certainly would not have predicted that. We are a leaner operation these days but good things come in small packages!

I have always struggled to describe my job to others; some days researcher, some days trainer, some days report writer, some days tinker-er, resource creator, lesson plan inventor,  course designer, website editor, blogger, social media campaigner, ideas creator, interviewer, school gardener, treasure-hunt layer, graphics designer, handbook writer, video editor, events planner, project manager, app tester, intern mentor, meeting chair, funding bid coordinator, advisory board member, panel speaker, proofreader, and computer fairy.  I guess that’s the beauty of working for an SME, you get to do a bit of everything.

It has been an amazing 10 years, I have been to wonderful places and met some wonderful people along the way. I have been stranded at midnight in unfamiliar cities. Delivered a workshop with my baby strapped to my chest. Worked through days and nights to meet deadlines. Attended meetings in my pyjamas. Attended meetings and felt underdressed despite wearing my best smart suit. Working remotely means my office has been my home, but also friend’s homes, an attic room in France, a Butlins chalet and countless departure lounges and hotel rooms.

I have no idea what the next 10 years will hold.  Brexit, whatever that means, will certainly have a huge impact, but if it’s anything like the last 10 it will be an awesome adventure!  Thanks to everyone who has been a part of it so far x