Education has gone on quite a journey over the last 12 months. The United Nations published an in depth report recently stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 per cent of the world’s student population.

The crisis is exacerbating pre-existing education disparities by reducing the opportunities for many of the most vulnerable children, youth, and adults. They estimate that some 23.8 million additional children may drop out or not have access to school due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone.

UN REPORT

The impact here in South Wales has been felt right across the board, with leaners finding new ways to learn, and parent and teachers finding new ways to teach.

As things slowly edge back to some sort of normality, it’s great to get some more good new out of COLEG GWENT.

Torfaen Learning Zone has been highly anticipated for quite some time, and after a difficult year in the midst of a global pandemic that’s affected us all, Coleg Gwent is excited to officially open their brand-new state-of-the-art campus in the heart of Cwmbran. After many months of teaching and learning remotely, the college is thrilled to welcome learners and staff through its doors and mark the occasion with a small opening ceremony.

The new campus offers a wide range of courses for all types of learners in Torfaen, with industry-standard facilities at one of Wales’ top performing colleges. The Learning Zone will provide learners with fantastic opportunities for post-16 education in the Torfaen region. Coleg Gwent’s Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone in Ebbw Vale has already revolutionised outcomes for learners in that area, and they look forward to seeing the same success at Torfaen Learning Zone.

As part of the Welsh Government 21st Century Schools and Colleges programme, Torfaen Learning Zone is managed and run by Coleg Gwent in partnership with Torfaen County Borough Council. It replaces three English medium school sixth forms in the borough and will be home to all A Level education in Torfaen. It will also offer the Welsh Baccalaureate and a range of complementary level 2 and 3 qualifications, bringing further education services together under one roof for Torfaen.

Despite the uncertainty of COVID-19, the build of the new campus made good progress and has come a long way since the original announcement made to all staff, learners and the wider community back in June 2018.

THE JOURNEY TO TORFAEN LEARNING ZONE

  • In November 2018, although the foundations were well underway, Coleg Gwent saw the ceremonial sod cutting of Torfaen Learning Zone and it was a landmark day for both Coleg Gwent and Torfaen Council.
Principal in front of TLZ hoarding
  • In September 2019, the college ‘topped out’ in a special ceremony to mark the important milestone in the £24 million development. Coleg Gwent and Torfaen County Borough Council held a roof top ceremony to celebrate.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they saw a pause on building work during the lockdown period in the interest of safety, which meant the building work was slightly behind. So, in June 2020, the decision was made for all staff and learners for the Torfaen Learning Zone to begin the new term in the Pontypool campus.
  • Then, in September 2020, the site was officially handed over to Coleg Gwent staff and arrangements were made to start fitting all of the furniture and equipment.
  • October 2020 marked an important milestone as Coleg Gwent saw their learners visit the site to see the finished campus before moving there in January 2021.
  • COVID restrictions sadly meant that teaching and learning had to take place remotely in January 2021 to keep everyone safe, but learners and staff adapted excellently to the situation and looked forward to the time when they could make use of the fantastic new campus facilities.
  • And finally, in April 2021, Coleg Gwent was able to open the doors of the new Torfaen Learning Zone to all learners and staff after the Easter half term break, to begin face-to-face teaching and learning again.
TLZ ribbon-cutting event with Guy Lacey, Mark Langshaw and Anthony Hunt
(left to right: Guy Lacey – Principal of Coleg Gwent, Mark Langshaw – Chair of the board, and Anthony Hunt – Leader of Torfaen County Borough Council) 

Principal Guy Lacey told us……..

“We are all tremendously excited in the College about the opening of the new Torfaen Learning Zone in January. It will be an amazing place to learn and study and we can’t wait to see our students using it. It has been a long process to get here – the pandemic may have delayed things, but it hasn’t stopped us from getting to the goal of having an amazing new College for all the young people and adult learners of Torfaen.”

Following a similar model to the Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone in Ebbw Vale, the building will be fully accessible and will include specialist facilities for pupils with Additional Learning Needs (ALN). The campus is bright, light and airy with modern amenities and facilities – an ideal environment for learning and inspiring young minds. The Learning Zone’s prime location next to the Morrisons store in the town centre is also easily accessible for learners and staff, with excellent links to public transport and local facilities.

Leader of Torfaen Council, Councillor Anthony Hunt told us……

“Torfaen Learning Zone will help secure a more sustainable way of delivering post 16 education in Torfaen. Our motivation as always is our learners, and making sure they will be able to access the broadest possible curriculum and quality of provision into the future.”

If you’d like to learn about Coleg Gwent’s new campus and the COURSES on offer at Torfaen Learning Zone this September, register now for their next virtual open event HERE where you can explore the campus and meet the college’s expert tutors.

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