Mountain Ash Teacher Wins Pupils’ Award for Best Teacher

Religious Studies teacher David Church won the ‘Pupils’ Award for Best Teacher Award’ on Sunday evening following the virtual ceremony.

Over the last twenty-three years, Mr. Church has taught thousands of children and engaged pupils and staff in highly successful charity projects, most recently in partnership with twenty-one local charities, national charities and international charity projects, raising over £32,000 and enabling five pupils to win international scholarships to India, worth £17,500.

Mr David Church – Picture Credit: Brad Williams

Pauline Jarman, Chair of Governors at the school told CVN,

“I have known Dave Church since the first day he came to teach at MACS some 23 years ago. His caring attitude is reflected not only in his style of teaching but his encouragement to pupils to think of others less fortunate by fund raising for worthy causes, whilst, at the same time, pupils learn and gain a better understanding of the causes and effects of social deprivation. But he promotes positivity, despite the challenges. Children have won scholarships with Dave’s help, which enabled them to help build a school in Rajasthan in India.

“He also provides the opportunity for two sixth formers annually to visit Poland as the school’s Ambassadors to Auschwitz.

“I supported Dave’s nomination and spoke to the judges when they visited the school some months ago, as did other colleague Governors. We had every expectation that Dave would be the worthy winner of the award for his record would be hard to match, let alone beat. Well done Mr. Church.”

In June, year 11 pupil Alysa Neads received a global Diana Award for her social action work undertaken in Penrhiwceiber. This was thanks to her work undertaking the First Give programme, and Mr Church’s nomination of her. The Diana Award is ‘The most prestigious accolade that a young person aged 9 – 25 can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.’ Alysa was one of just one-hundred and eighty four global winners, one of eight Welsh winners and the youngest winner in Wales! Mr. Church ensured that her win was highly memorable, by secretly arranging a wonderful message of congratulations from none other than TV’s ‘Pride of Britain’ host and BBC Radio Wales broadcaster, Carol Vorderman.

Alysa had led a team of her peers, awarding £3,058 to the Lee Gardens Pool in Penrhiwceiber through the First Give programme, which encourages young people to tackle social issues in their communities, during curriculum time.

In summer term 2019, through their Religious Studies lessons with Mr. Church, Alysa Neads, Madison Cornish, Carys Simpson and Teigan Maund decided upon the Lee Gardens Pool as their chosen charity. They undertook ninety-seven hours of social action, raising the profile of the charity in the local and wider community. The pupils organised twelve charitable events in the local community, which raised a phenomenal £2,058 in just eight weeks! They also went on to win the school First Give final, gaining a further £1,000 for the Lee Gardens Pool through a First Give grant. In total, the pupils awarded an incredible £3,058 to the Lee Gardens Pool, which has made a huge difference to the charity, working tirelessly in a socio-economically deprived area.

Photograph (L-R): Mr. Church, Mr. Mead (Deputy Headteacher), Madison Cornish, Carys Simpson, Alysa Neads, Mrs. Mackie (former Assistant Headteacher) and Mr. Badma

The charity work that Mr. Church has undertaken with his pupils was even commended in person by royalty in March, 2018.

At the personal request of the Duke of Sussex, Kensington Palace extended an invite to Mr. Church to choose three pupils to meet Prince Harry & Meghan backstage, for a private five-minute conversation at WE Day UK, held at Wembley Arena, London.

Photograph: Mr. Church, MACS pupils Lowri Morgan, Nicole Walker, Conor Acteson, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Nicola Brentnall, CEO The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust
Credit: The Royal Photographer, Kensington Palace.

WE Day is a celebration of twelve thousand young people and their teachers from across the UK and their incredible efforts of social action. Tickets cannot be purchased for this event and pupils ‘earn’ their place at WE Day, by way of charitable invitation. It features a star-studded line-up of royalty, world leaders, motivational speakers and A-list celebrities. The event in 2018 included Julia Gillard (Former Prime Minister of Australia), Liam Payne (pop star), Nicole Scherzinger (pop star), Tom Walker (pop star) and Naomi Campbell (supermodel) amongst many others. The 2019 event included Lewis Hamilton (seven time formula one world champion), Leona Lewis (pop star), Jamie Oliver (chef and TV presenter) and Idris Elba (actor) amongst many others.

The WE movement work in partnership with First Give to give ticket allocation to schools deserving of tickets to the unique event. It is a private event and no tickets can be purchased to attend. Pupils ‘earn’ their ticket to WE Day, by undertaking social action in their local communities. Added to this, Mr Church, is the WE School Co-ordinator for MACS, and he worked tirelessly to secure extra tickets, to reward every single finalist of the MACS First Give competition and the school Senedd members.

After attending WE Day in 2017, the school were invited to apply for the ‘Virgin Atlantic – Be the Change’ scholarship programme. This is a chance for young people to win a once in a lifetime trip worth £3,500 to spend two and a half weeks in Rajasthan, India to help build a school for young children. Only thirty pupils from across the UK are selected every year.

In Easter 2018, three MACS pupils won a place on the scholarship programme, thanks to Mr. Church’s work with them. The first winner was Nicole Walker (who had previously won £1,000 for Women’s Aid Rhondda Cynon Taf, in the 2017 First Give programme). The second winner was Lowri Morgan who assists in running the Cynon Valley Pals, a charity for disabled children and their families. The third winner was Conor Acteson.

Photograph (L-R): Mr. Church, Craig Kielburger (Founder of WE Movement), Nicole Walker, Conor Acteson and Lowri Morgan at WE Day UK, 2018

In September 2018, the annual UK First Give Awards were held and hosted by Cynon Valley Senedd Member, Vikki Howells at the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay.

Cynon Valley Member of Senedd, Vikki Howells

MACS was nominated in the ‘School of the Year’ category and Nicole Walker, won the ‘Alumni of the Year’ award! Just prior to the awards, Mrs. Mackie (former Assistant Headteacher) applied successfully for a grant of £1,800 from the Queens Commonwealth Trust, in partnership with the WE Movement and Mr. Church, for a project in the school related to enhancing the teaching and learning experiences for pupils.

Mountain Ash Comprehensive School were invited to meet the royals for a number of reasons:

1. Sector-leading and award-winning pupil engagement with local charities through the First Give programme.

2. Being the first school ever in the UK to have three children (in the same year) to win the prestigious ‘Virgin Atlantic – Be the Change’ scholarship programme to India. The following year, Mr. Church enabled a further two pupils, Kia Kinsey and Charlotte Napier to also win these scholarships.

Photograph: Kia Kinsey and Charlotte Napier

3. For recently winning the £1,800 grant from the Queens Commonwealth Trust, to improve Teaching and Learning experiences for MACS pupils.

4. For being one of the most engaged schools in the UK WE Movement.

5. At personal request of the Duke of Sussex and Kensington Palace.

Just four schools from across the UK were invited to meet with royalty in this private meeting, backstage at Wembley Arena, London. MACS was the only Welsh school to receive this invitation. Unexpectedly, Mountain Ash Comprehensive was also featured in Hello Magazine on the 18th March 2018, covering the WE Day event.


Free parking extended in Aberdare town centre

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has confirmed it will extend current free parking arrangements in Aberdare and Pontypridd Town Centres until the end of August 2020.

Parking Aberdare
Credit: Google Maps

In response to the Coronavirus national health emergency, the local authority says no parking charges have been applied at Council-owned car parks in the two towns since the lockdown period began in mid-March 2020.

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said,

“This free parking provision is aimed at supporting the local economy by increasing trade for local businesses, and therefore increasing employment within the towns. The Council also recognises there are currently a limited number of seats on public transport due to social distancing.

“The Council is encouraging residents across the County Borough to Shop Local and support those businesses that are able to be open at this time – and asking visitors to follow the markers/signage within retail areas that are promoting social distancing at all times.

“Having previously announced the free parking arrangements would last until the end of July at least, today’s announcement by the Council has confirmed it will be extended by a further month – covering the whole of August 2020.”

South Wales Metro

South Wales Metro work to start next month

Transport for Wales will begin railway line transformational works on 3 August 2020

It’s hoped the South Wales Metro will make it easier, quicker and more convenient for people to travel in South Wales.

The rail operator says the project will also open up a range of job, business, education and other opportunities for the people and businesses of South Wales.

As part of its three-quarters-of-a-billion-pound investment in Metro, which includes £164 million of European Regional Development Funding through the Welsh Government, TfW will begin transformational works on railway lines throughout South Wales, starting on 3 August 2020.

Earlier this year TfW completed the transfer of rail assets, known locally as the Core Valleys Lines, from Network Rail into its ownership.

The works include the electrification of over 170 km of track mostly with overhead lines, station and signalling upgrades and the construction of at least five new stations.

Metro Tram Aberdare line
An artist’s impression of the Class 398 tram-trains which will be used on the Aberdare Line.

James Price, Transport for Wales’ CEO said:

“Transport for Wales is absolutely committed to delivering the South Wales Metro and we’ve now moved forward with further transformational works.

“At the start of the year, we opened our Metro Infrastructure Hub at Treforest, as well as starting construction work on our Metro Control Centre at Taff’s Well.  We’ve been undertaking surveying and design work across the valley railway lines and are now progressing onto the next phase and transforming the railway lines, starting on 3 August 2020.

“We understand the impact of Covid-19 but will be following all relevant safety advice from the Welsh Government as we push forward with our investment programme.”

Vikki Howells MS
Cynon Valley Member of Senedd, Vikki Howells.

Vikki Howells MS has told Cynon Valley News,

“The announcement that works will commence on August 3rd to transform railway lines throughout South Wales, including Core Valleys Lines like Aberdare to Cardiff, is very welcome news indeed.

“The planned works, centring on the electrification of over 170 km of track, are transformational in their ambition and will lead to commuters seeing a real change to passenger rail services.

“These will be faster, greener, more reliable and more frequent, with four trains an hour between Aberdare and Cardiff by 2023 for example. Capacity will be increased and different forms of transport will be better integrated under the Metro model.

“Delivering these improvements may lead to some disruption in the short-term, but we must not lose sight of the long-term vision of a public transport system fit for purpose and offering enhanced opportunities to local people.

“The start of these works takes us a step closer to this destination.”


Success for Cynon Valley Organic Adventures

The social enterprise was set up in 2018 to create and manage a community garden in Abercynon.

Cynon Organic Adventures

With a small team of 6 volunteers, they cleared a five-acre site and created a beautiful space for local people to connect with nature.

Despite a difficult start to the year with their site being devastated by the floods caused by Storm Dennis, Cynon Valley Organic Adventures have managed to thrive, setting up a food bank creating a community garden café with a tepee for the children, and they are just about to begin delivering wellbeing & employability programmes to local children referred through Careers Wales.

A spokesperson said,

“This has all been made possible through the support of local funders and organisations such as Awards for All, The Heritage Fund, Unltd, Interlink Coalfields Regeneration and The National Association of Farms and Gardens who have all supported us in many ways. We would also like to thank the Welsh Government who have confirmed that they will be giving us a grant to buy the land.

“This has been a dream of ours from day one and will enable us to sustain the services that we deliver to the community.

“The pandemic has really united the Cynon Valley with MS Vikki Howells and local councillor Elaine George volunteering for us twice a week and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council joining forces with us to ensure we all get food to those most in need.

“Despite the difficulties we have faced this year the support we have received has really enabled us to support others and it has been a humbling experience.”

Health Rhondda Cynon Taf

Sexual health home tests prove valuable tool during lockdown

People in Cwm Taf Morgannwg are now able to order sexual health testing kits online and carry out the tests in the privacy of their own home.

wesbite latest

The health board’s sexual health team has joined forces with Frisky Wales, a service run by Public Health Wales, to ensure people can get tested for sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and hepatitis if they feel they are at risk.

The service was trialled across Wales before the coronavirus pandemic and has been seen as an invaluable tool during lockdown, with usual walk-in clinics closed. Two types of test are available – one for chlamydia and gonorrhoea and another for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C – to anyone who would like a ‘peace of mind’ test. People showing symptoms should still ring the sexual health clinic’s triage line.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB Clinical Nurse Specialist Louise Quealey said:

“The scheme was piloted pre-Covid. We were always due to come on board and Covid has given it a nudge forward. The website asks a number of questions and has safeguarding measures in place to make sure the right people can access the service. We also give out free condoms.

“This is a good service that our team has been very keen to see arrive. I think Public Health Wales has done a fabulous thing, as routine tests were high in demand before Covid. By reducing this demand, we can allow more time to focus on patients with more complex sexual health needs”.

Before Covid, up to 25 to 35 people per session were accessing the walk-in sexual health clinics at Dewi Sant Hospital, Pontypirdd and their community outreach clinics – with Dewi Sant Hospital providing up to three sessions per day. Since the pandemic, staff have been available over the phone for people who need contraception and there’s also a triage number for members of the public with concerns.

“If someone is anxious, we refer them for a test,” said Louise. “They get a text if the result is negative and, if it’s positive, we ring the person and arrange for them to come in. Initially, for the first two weeks of lockdown, people were panicky about not being able to access the service, but they understood and there was a lull. Now it’s starting to pick up again as people are meeting up.

To request a test or get advice on infections, contraception or unplanned pregnancy, visit


No new deaths in Wales from Covid-19 today

There’s been no new deaths reported from Coronavirus in Wales today.

website breaking

Public Health Wales has confirmed eight new cases have been reported across the country with one new confirmed case in the Rhondda Cynon Taf local authority area.

The figures published by Public Health Wales can be found here:!/vizhome/RapidCOVID-19virology-Public/Headlinesummary

News Rhondda Cynon Taf

Mountain Ash pupil receives Diana Award

Mountain Ash Comprehensive School year 10 pupil Alysa Neads has recieved a Diana Award for her social action work undertaken in Penrhiwceiber.

Alyssa Neads Diana Award
Pictured: Alysa at a local supermarket raising money for Lee Gardens Pool, last year.

The Diana Award is the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.

15-year-old Alysa is among 8 winners in Wales and 184 internationally. She’s also this year’s youngest winner here in Wales.

The pupil raised over £3,000 for Lee Gardens Pool in Penrhiwceiber through the First Give programme, which encourages young people to tackle social issues in their communities, during curriculum time.

The school’s work in partnership with First Give has also seen pupils win awards on a Welsh and UK wide level.

Last summer, in their Religious Studies lessons, Alysa, Madison Cornish, Carys Simpson and Teigan Maund decided upon the Lee Gardens Pool as their chosen charity. They undertook ninety-seven hours of social action, raising the profile of the charity. The pupils organised twelve events in the local community, which raised £2,058. They also went on to win the school First Give final, gaining a further £1,000 for the Lee Gardens Pool through a First Give grant. In total, the pupils awarded £3,058 to the Lee Gardens Pool.

On Twitter, Mr David Church, Religious Studies teacher at Mountain Ash Comprehensive said it gave him “great pride” to announce Alyssa had won the Diana Award.

Rhondda Cynon Taf School

Schools reopen in Wales

From today, schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf & Wales will be accessible for all children of statutory school age to have time with their teachers before the summer break – after they closed for mainstream education during March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Aberdare Community School
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council says ‘important work’ has been ongoing across schools, to ensure pupils and staff can return while adhering to social distancing as far as possible.
As a result, school life will be a little different from today – with pupils taught in smaller groups and up to a third of pupils attending school at any one time. Buildings will have signs and markings to ensure compliance with social distancing measures, such as one-way systems in corridors and waiting points outside classrooms and toilets. Classrooms will have fewer seats and desks to create greater scope for social distancing, and transparent screens will be provided for one-to-one tuition.
Strict hygiene measures and rigorous cleaning routines will be adhered to and dedicated pedal bins provided to safely dispose of waste. Opportunities for social interaction will be minimised and learners will be kept in small discrete groups where possible. Schools will have safe processes and procedures for morning and afternoon ‘drop-off’ and ‘pick-up’ times to ensure there are no large gatherings outside schools.
All pupils must take in a packed lunch and should also have a re-fillable water bottle. Pupils who are eligible for ‘Free School Meals’ will be provided with a packed lunch.
The Education Directorate has also confirmed emergency childcare arrangements for this period, with provision available across all school settings to successful applicants. Further details are available at
Pictured: Aberdare Community School
Rhondda Cynon Taf

Nos Galan Races wins award

The world-famous Nos Galan Road Races are officially the best 5K race in Wales once again, having been crowned the regional winner at the 2020 UK Running Awards.

Nos Galan
Nigel Owens MBE (left) & Guto Nyth Bran (right) Credit: Mountain Ash Studio & Nos Galan Road Races

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s flagship race event, held in Mountain Ash each New Year’s Eve, has now been shortlisted in the finals of the UK Running Awards in the 5K race category, up against some of the finest athletics events in the country.

The Nos Galan Road Races, which began back in 1958, is organised in conjunction with the Nos Galan Committee and the event attracts thousands of competitors and spectators to Rhondda Cynon Taf each year.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services and also Chair of the Nos Galan Committee, is urging the public to get behind the Nos Galan Road Races nomination.

Councillor Crimmings said: “It is brilliant news that our annual New Year’s Eve event in Mountain Ash is once again getting national recognition having once again been crowned a regional winner at the prestigious UK Running Awards.

“These awards celebrate the cream of the entire running industry in the UK – to even be nominated at such a prestigious awards ceremony is a huge achievement – but to win a regional award once again is true testimony to the success of the Nos Galan Road Races.

“Each year we get overwhelming support from the public, who turn out in their thousands on the night to support us. Race places are also quickly claimed months ahead of the event.

“The Races have brought so much pleasure to so many people for over 60 years and now is your chance to say thank you and give something back. All it takes is one simple vote that will cost you absolutely nothing apart from just a few minutes of your time.”

The UK Running Awards is an annual ceremony celebrating the best of running and its culture around the country – from best fun runs and running events and marathons to best running shoes and the most innovative running apps.

The Nos Galan Road Races celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018 and attracts a record number of entrants each year, with race places snapped up months in advance of race night.

From young children to elite runners and fun runners, the Nos Galan Road Races are a part of our heritage and history, attracting competitors from all around the world.

The 2019 Nos Galan Mystery Runner, representing the memory of legendary Welsh athlete Guto Nyth Bran, was international rugby union referee Nigel Owens MBE.

The Council and Nos Galan Committee are continuing to monitor developments in line with the national guidance regarding coronavirus and will communicate any updates regarding the 2020 event at a later date.

You can vote for the Nos Galan Road Races to be crowned the best 5K race in the UK:

Pictures: Wayne Hankins/Mountain Ash Studio

Aberdare Interview News

EXCLUSIVE: ‘It’s been a truly amazing experience for us all’ – Aberdare magician’s describe their Britain’s Got Talent audition

Earlier this year, James Piper and his two sons, Dylan & Joseph left the Cynon Valley and travelled to London for a magical audition on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent.

James & Dylan BGT

38-year-old James has reflected on that special moment. He also hopes to share ‘something amazing’ with the world, if they make it through to the live shows, which have been put on hold until later this year due to Covid-19.

James told Cynon Valley News,

“Britain’s Got Talent has been a truly amazing experience for us all as a family. We found out around Christmas 2019 that we were going to have an audition in front of the judges and from that point there was a mixture of emotions. We began practising every day since, until the day of the audition in January. Dylan’s twin brother, Joseph isn’t really interested in magic but I wanted to try and include him in the act because I knew that the memories of that day would stay with me forever. I wanted them both involved. He reluctantly agreed.

“In January, we set off on our journey to London, along with a few family members who came to support us. The process of trying to transport our large photo board from our home in Aberdare to the London Palladium was a trick in itself. We travelled by car, train, bus and on foot. Finally, we managed to get it there safely and in one piece.

“We were full of excitement the night before the audition. The following day, we woke early and set out for the London Palladium. I was excited and Dylan didn’t seem nervous in the slightest. He took the whole day in his stride. We arrived early and were taken to the holding room with my wife, Rebecca and Dylan’s twin brother, Joseph. It was fantastic to be in a room surrounded by the other acts, trying to guess what they may have been doing. Dylan and I spent most of the day being interviewed and they filmed the four of us walking through the streets of London. We even had tourists taking photos of us as they didn’t know whether we may have been famous. It was incredible. Around 3pm, a member of the BGT team came and told us we would be second on the stage and we were taken upstairs to prepare. As we stood backstage, Dylan, who had been full of confidence all day, began to get a little teary and said he was worried. He took himself off for a little walk and composed himself, a few minutes later returning and saying ‘we’ve got this Dad!’ I felt instant relief and knew he was going to be ok.

“We waited back stage. We were ready to go on. The sound of the buzzer echoed through the palladium, but this just made us want to do well all the more. A member of the crew took Dylan to take his place in the audience, and while Rebecca and Joseph stood side of stage, and after a brief chat with Ant and Dec, I walked out and stood on the star.

“Stood alone on stage, in a theatre of thousands, I didn’t feel in the least bit nervous, we had prepared. I was excited to share our magic with the judges, the audience and the people at home who would eventually be watching.

“The audition went better than we could have imagined, receiving two standing ovations and all four judges said yes. Stood on stage, looking out at a sea of people, including the judges, clapping and cheering was a really special moment and one that we will cherish as a family forever.

“Due to Covid-19, the live semi-finals have been put on hold until later this year. If we are lucky enough to make the live shows, we have something amazing planned that we hope the world will get to see.”

You can follow James & Dylan’s journey by following their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Pictures: ITV & James Piper

James & Dylan BGT. 2