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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.

Number of schools considered to be underperforming doubles under new system

Twice as many schools are now considered to be underperforming than last year Credit: PA

The number of secondary schools considered to be underperforming has doubled after a major change to the exams, according to official figures released today.

But our region did have the most improved school in the country - the Charter Academy in Southsea.

It has seen its results jump from 39% of students getting at least five Cs including the basics in 2011 to 83% achieving this standard in 2014

However, than 300 schools fell beneath the Government's floor target this year after failing to ensure that enough pupils gained five good GCSE grades.

The Department for Education says that the rise is down to two key reforms - a decision that only a teenager's first attempt at a GCSE would count in the annual performance tables, and a move to strip poor quality vocational qualifications out of the rankings.

But the increase is likely to cause concerns among school leaders, who have voiced fears that schools will be considered failing not just due to changes in the system but also"volatility" in last summer's GCSE results.

How did your local authority do for GCSE results?

GCSE league tables have been released Credit: PA

League tables showing how local authorities compare for GCSE results have been released today.

The figures show the average percentage of candidates getting five or more A* to C-grades at GCSE and equivalent qualifications, including English and maths, in their schools.

The latest statistics on how specific schools performed, can be found here

  • Buckinghamshire 69.5%
  • Surrey 63.5%
  • Southend-on-Sea 62.2%
  • West Berkshire 61.1%
  • Bournemouth 61.1%
  • Oxfordshire 59.4%
  • Reading 59.3%
  • Hampshire 58.9%
  • Medway Towns 58.8%
  • Dorset 58.7%
  • Kent 58.0%
  • Thurrock 57.9%
  • West Sussex 57.6%
  • Poole 56.8%
  • Wiltshire 56.7%
  • Essex 56.5%
  • Brighton and Hove 53.6%
  • East Sussex 53.2%
  • Swindon 53.1%
  • Southampton 51.0%
  • Portsmouth 50.8%
  • Isle of Wight 45.2%


Exclusive: First aerial view of 'The Wing'

Seen from the air for the first time, the new £3.5 million visitor centre at the national Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent is almost completed.

The three and a half million pound building close to the cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne has been funded almost entirely by donations and will open this Spring.

Called 'The Wing', it has been designed to look like the shape of a Spitfire's wing.

We speak to Wing Commander Andrew Simpson and Jules Gomez from the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.

Thousands of pounds awarded to Portsmouth schools to help them serve up school dinners

Cash to help provide school dinners Credit: ITV news

Schools served up meals grants

Three Portsmouth schools will benefit from Government funding to help them deliver hot school meals to infant pupils.

College Park Infant School has been awarded the maximum £250,000 to install a new kitchen and extend the dining hall area, with the council funding an additional £90,000. Debbie Anderson head teacher at College Park said: "Being able to have a kitchen on our own school site will really help us to efficiently provide free quality meals to those families who want to take them up for their children. It will make a real difference to our lunchtimes."

Devonshire Infant School was also awarded £250,000 with an additional £30k from the council to build an extension to create a larger dining hall and additional seating space. Mayfield School was also awarded £90,000 for refurbishments to create a servery and dining space for their infant pupils.

Neill Young, Cabinet Member for Children and Education at Portsmouth City Council said: "Regular meals and eating a healthy balanced diet is fundamental to the development of children's health and wellbeing and healthy pupils are more likely to be better learners and to get more from their school day. Lunchtime and the dining environment are important and being able to provide a hot, free school meal to our infant children is beneficial. We're really pleased to have been awarded grants to enable three of our schools to improve the dining experience for their young pupils."

1,500 pupils to visit 'Careers Fest' in Oxford

The previous Oxford City Learning Careers Fest took place in 2014

The MINI car plant at Cowley in Oxford is hosting a two-day jobs fair to introduce teenagers to the world of work after they leave school.

The fifth annual Oxford City Learning Careers Fest will feature 50 exhibitors. The firms are offering chances for school pupils aged 14 - 18 to explore potential job and career opportunities. The organisers 'Oxford City Learning' (OCL) have invited 1,500 children from schools across Oxfordshire to the event.

"With Oxfordshire's Strategic Economic Plan indicating that up to 75,000 new jobs could be created in the county between 2014 and 2031, this event will showcase a host of exciting employment opportunities over the next few years, together with the types and levels of qualifications required.

"As in previous years, we'll be encouraging students visiting to 'have a go' at the range of activities run by the exhibitors, who will also provide information and advice to help young people understand and consider a full range of career pathways including apprenticeships, further and higher education and employment."

– Alison Robb-Webb, OCL Project Director

Top science graduates to be fast-tracked into healthcare professions

University of Reading to train new wave of medical professionals Credit: University of Reading

The University of Reading is to train a new generation of medical professionals to help deliver stronger and more cost effective patient care across the UK.

The Postgraduate Diploma Physician Associate programme, which fast-tracks top science graduates into healthcare professions, is designed to help the NHS meet the demands of the UK’s growing population. Physician Associates (PA) undertake two years of intensive training before they begin working alongside doctors in a wide variety of workplaces (including GP practices, community health services and all types of hospital care). PAs support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients and are trained to perform a number of roles including:

- taking medical histories

- performing examinations

- diagnosing illnesses

- analysing test results

- developing management plans

The programme is the first of its kind in the Thames Valley and has been developed in partnership with both the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Berkshire Healthcare, along with the collaboration of local clinical commissioning groups. Both NHS Trusts will be providing clinical academic input into the course as well as a range of placements.

There is strong predicted growth of the Physician Associate role across the NHS, where there is a well-known resource gap in health professionals generally and the emerging PA role in particular; in 2013 for example, 136 PA vacancies were advertised but only 25 filled.

We are very excited to be opening the new postgraduate Physician Associate programme for first entry this September. With the NHS treating record numbers, there is growing demand for patient care and,as a result, doctors’ workloads are increasing. PAs contribute to healthservice teams and, as such, are growing in importance across the NHS. We are delighted to be working with the Royal Berkshire Hospital and BerkshireHealthcare, who recognise the increasing demand for PAs and their role in delivering vital patient care.

– Professor Richard Ellis, Dean of Life Sciences at the University of Reading

The two-year full time postgraduate programme of academic study, skills development, and placement-based training will involve considerable interaction with patients from early on and support from a wide range of healthcare professionals. The first cohort in September 2015 will be limited to a maximum of 20 students, with a further expansion of places planned over the next few years.

Prospective students can find out more about the new programme and the vital role of PAs at an open evening at the University on Wednesday 4th February, the first of a series before the course starts.

The first open evening for this new programme will be held at the University of Reading’s Whiteknights Campus on Wednesday 4th February 2015. To register, or to learn more, please e-mail:

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