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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

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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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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.

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