Championing Active Wellbeing at Cardiff and Vale College

Positioned within the heart of the city, Cardiff and Vale College welcomes over 30,000 learners each year, delivering education and training through college, community and in-the-workplace facilities.

As strategic partners within the Move More Eat Well partnership plan, Cardiff and Vale College recognises the importance of prioritising physical activity, nutrition, sleep hygiene and wellbeing across all corners of the college. Developing a robust wellbeing strategy, Cardiff and Vale College places the mental and physical health and wellbeing of its students and staff at the centre of its ethos. The college has also fully embraced the adoption and promotion of Healthy Workplace Principles.

Beyond this, Cardiff and Vale College has been instrumental in supporting the vibrant communities of the city to access exceptional sports and physical activity facilities. From re-developing unused ground into a hard-wearing 4D pitch for use by the community, college learners and local teams, to introducing sporting sessions that are tailored to different community groups; Cardiff and Vale College enables staff, learners and local residents to participate in physical activity, regardless of ability.

Active Wellbeing at Cardiff and Vale College

Driven by funding from Welsh Government to support further education establishments to promote physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, Cardiff and Vale College implemented its wellbeing strategy to build an environment in which staff and learners can thrive. At the heart of this wellbeing strategy is the college’s approach to Active Wellbeing.

Headed up by Assistant Principal, James Donaldson, and Strength and Conditioning Lead, James Martin, the college has been developing opportunities for staff and learners to be more active, build resilience and focus on their mental wellbeing.

“Despite having a strong sports academy focus at the college, we wanted to develop a strategy that enabled everyone to participate in Active Wellbeing and begin to feel the benefits moving more and eating well. Physical activity, fresh air, sleep hygiene and nutrition all play a big part when considering wellbeing, and we aim to ensure that all learners and staff have access to the resources, support and facilities they need to make this even easier to take forward and introduce into their daily routines,” commented James Donaldson.

Launching the Active Wellbeing strategy during the pandemic, Cardiff and Vale College ensured it had the resources in place to support learners and staff when distance learning. With free memberships to Headspace for meditation, sleep support and mindfulness activities and access to counselling support through the college, prioritising mental and physical wellbeing became a key priority. Helping to encourage learners and staff to participate in physical activity, it also introduced a series of online workout and activity sessions.

Despite doing what they could when distance learning, the college’s Active Wellbeing strategy truly came into fruition when the restrictions on educational establishments were relaxed. The easing of the restrictions ran parallel with the college’s introduction of its Dome facility, an air supported structure that houses indoor sports pitches and facilities, and its dedicated team of wellbeing officers.

“As an active wellbeing team, we have been driving the strategy forward to ensure there are varying opportunities for staff and learners to get involved in. We host regular workshops on a variety of topics that are designed to get everyone thinking differently about their wellbeing. We also have a diverse timetable of activities, from fixed to drop-in sessions, which our junior apprentices, A-Level and Higher Education learners can participate in.

“Our intention was to help to break down the barriers of access for learners and staff. By being flexible and responsive, we have been able to introduce a whole host of facilities, equipment and sessions that help individuals to find something they enjoy and they can do in a time that suits them. By having these conversations and educating our learners and staff on the benefits of Active Wellbeing, we can help to build habits and change the conversation around moving more, eating well and focusing on your mental and physical wellbeing,” James Martin explained.

As well as these sessions that can be accessed by staff and learners, the college’s Active Wellbeing officers have developed a staff-specific programme of activity to help to encourage behavioural change. Using the fitness tracking app, Strava, the team introduced a staff group and sets weekly and monthly challenges for staff to challenge each other. With accessible targets, the group has helped staff to engage and participate with other colleagues whilst driving forward with the strategic vision.

“We are planning to introduce a staff 5-a-side team in the summer months and have intentions to further increase the number of activities and teams to ensure staff also have access to a variety of structured sessions they can take part in with their colleagues. Our staff Strava group is also going from strength to strength, and we are expecting to see further uptake in the spring and summer months. Engagement within staff using the app is currently at 77% and they are building this into their daily routines and forming foundations with colleagues that centre on active wellbeing,” James Martin continued.

As the college plans to build further on the resources and facilities available to both learners and staff across its college campuses, the team are currently enjoying seeing the benefits and the difference the active wellbeing strategy has made to everyone involved.

“We are seeing a clear behaviour change in everyone across the college as a result of our Active Wellbeing strategy. From more individuals trying new things and enjoying being active, to seeing the direct impact this has on motivation, focus and attention span when in the learning space, our learners are enjoying the freedom and flexibility to practice wellbeing throughout their college experience.

“Beyond this, our staff are engaged and passionate about what we are aiming to do having seen the benefits already. They have been supported which has directly impacted their motivation and determination to maintain their physical activity levels. Our Active Wellbeing strategy has helped us to build a community, that is driven by mutual support, respect and flexibility and we have been taking steps to encourage our staff and learners to prioritise their physical and mental health by moving more and eating well,” concluded James Donaldson.

To find out more about Cardiff and Vale College and its Active Wellbeing Strategy, please visit