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Children learn about ocean wildlife in our waters

It's not a sight you get to see everyday, but ferry passengers and school children were given the opportunity to come face-to-face with 43ft whales, sharks and dolphins.

We spoke to the director of marine charity ORCA, Sally Hamilton, and Portsmouth International Port manager, Martin Putman about the exhibition, which highlighted the variety of wildlife found in our seas off the Solent.

Chloe Oliver has this report.

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School closed due to staff illness 'should be taken over'

Parents of a troubled Dorset secondary school say they are losing faith in its future after it has been closed to most pupils for three days due to staff sickness.

Parents at St Aldhelm's Academy in Poole were told about the closure for all students - except Year 11's - late on Thursday night. It's due to re-open this Wednesday.

The school was placed in special measures last October, after a government inspection rated the school 'inadequate'.

Last month it was revealed that just 17% of Year 11 pupils gained at least five good GCSEs, including English and Maths.

The local MP says the school, which is run by the Diocese of Salisbury, should be taken over:

Money to fix schools which 'aren't fit for purpose'

The Deputy Prime Minister has revealed a list of schools in the Meridian region which will be rebuilt and improved as part of the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme.

Nick Clegg says many schools aren't currently fit for purpose and that this investment is much-needed:

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Schools in the South to benefit from £6 billion investment

Valentine Primary school is one 77 schools in the region to get funding

A further 77 schools in the Meridian region will be rebuilt and improved as part of a six billion pound government programme.

Details of the investment will be announced today as part of the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme

The coalition says improving the standard of school buildings so that pupils learn in high quality classrooms and teachers have access to the best facilities is a vital part of the Government's long term plan for education and will help build a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School in Kent is to benefit Credit: .

Schools including Valentine Primary School, Southampton and Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School, Kent are among the additional schools announced today across the region that will benefit from the scheme.

Huge increase in applications for University of Reading

Applications rise for undergraduate courses Credit: University of Reading

The University of Reading has bucked the national trend by seeing a 21 per cent increase in applications. That's 10 times the national figure. Applications are up by more than 4,000 compared to this time last year. Just over 23,000 students have applied to the University - which represents six applications for every place. Some courses, such as Economics, Geography and Environmental Sciences, are seeing 10 applications for every place available.

There has also been a strong rise in the number of overseas applications with 3,756 applications being received to date, compared to 2,753 at the same point last year

Portsmouth has most improved school in country

An academy in Portsmouth is the most improved in the country according to GCSE performance tables published today. Four years ago fewer than 40 per cent of pupils gained five or more C grades and above including English and maths at Charter Academy - now it's over 80 per cent.

Elsewhere in the region there have been big falls in achievement as new rules come into force on which results and qualifications can and can't be counted.

Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford spoke to: Dame Sharon Hollows, Principal at Charter Academy, Dr Rory Fox, Principal at Ryde Academy, Dylan Davies, Principal at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, the minister for school reform and Tory MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton Nick Gibb and GCSE students.

Performance plummets at GCSE - or does it?

Reforms to school performance tables published today have resulted in big falls in attainment at GCSE level. Some independent schools have posted results of zero after the qualifications many of them favour were not included. Others saw drops of up to 20 per cent after the rules on grades achieved in re-sits were altered. Some heads say the tables are now confusing and irrelevant.

The government says it's about encouraging schools to equip pupils with robust academic qualifications. Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford spoke to Felicity Lusk, head of Abingdon School in Oxfordshire, Charlotte Vere from the Independent Schools Association, academy principal Dylan Davies, the minister for school reform Nick Gibb and GCSE students from the South facing tougher exams this summer.

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