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WA’s peak parent group has slammed a plan to test pre-primary students next year as a waste of money, saying it’s “ridiculous” to assess children as young as four.

As part of its strategy to improve literacy and numeracy across WA, the Education Department will start to roll out the 30-minute assessments in the first term in public schools. The Sunday Times can reveal some of the sample questions likely to be used in the so-called “on entry assessments”, which are aimed at picking up early problems.

Pre-primary students in public schools will be asked to: Speak about a certain topic, such as friends or favourite games, for two to three minutes. Estimate how many teddy bears are in a cup. Put objects, from smallest to tallest, in order. Count backwards. Match dots with a number on a page.

WA Council of State School Organisations president Rob Fry attacked the $2 million plan, saying he expected parents to be angered by the “ineffective” results.

“I just find this truly remarkable when you’re dealing with children of such a young age,” he said.

“If you get an exceptionally shy child, you’re asking a four-year-old to talk on a subject for two minutes and some of them won’t want to say anything at that age. Does that mean they’ve got a literacy problem? No, they might be shy.

“It’s ineffective and you are going to get such diverse responses between a child coming from an indigenous community to a child living in a Perth suburb with a highly socially active family.”

School Support Programs executive director David Axworthy said the Education Department based its tests on the Victorian model because it was the “best tool to meet the needs of WA children”. It would also enable shared resources between the states.

“It will leave WA well placed for the introduction of the national curriculum when it is produced in 2011,” he said.

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen supported the plan because it would allow teachers to set benchmarks and adapt their programs to suit children’s needs.

Education Minister Liz Constable said children at risk of falling behind would be identified earlier, allowing urgent action to be taken.

Under the plan, students in 50 schools will be tested in term one before all public schools will have access to the assessments in the final term. From 2011, each pre-primary student will be tested at the start of the year.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Parents of children at private WA schools should brace for fee rises up to four times the inflation rate next year, with new figures showing education costs leapt 37.5 per cent in the past five years.

Elite colleges said it was too early to set next year’s fees but they predicted rises between 5 and 8 per cent.

Principals said big pay rises to State schoolteachers last year in a three-year agreement were driving up fees at private schools because they competed for staff.

Scotch College principal Andrew Syme said fees at private schools had to go up at least 6 per cent to keep pace with teachers’ pay rises before any improvements in service.

Anglican Schools Commission chief executive Peter Laurence said fee rises at low-fee church schools would be similar to last year’s increases of between 6 and 9 per cent.

“Teachers’ pay is the number one driver that’s going to keep increases higher than they used to be a few years ago,” he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show education costs in Perth, comprising school fees and other miscellaneous costs, have jumped 37.5 per cent since 2004 – the biggest increase registered by any capital city. Canberra had the second biggest leap, with 29.4 per cent.

The rise was driven by a 55.9 per cent lift in fees associated with pre-schools and primary schools. By contrast, pre-school and primary school education costs in Sydney rose almost 23 per cent.

Pre-school and primary school fees have grown faster than the average wage of West Australians which, between 2004 and today, jumped 44 per cent – the biggest rise of any capital city.

The State Government has held down public primary school fees so the increase is mainly for private schools.

A private education in WA costs between $3000 a year for Year 12 tuition at low-fee Catholic schools and $17,000 a year at high-fee independent schools. Many private schools in Sydney and Melbourne charge more than $20,000 a year.

Association of Independent Schools of WA executive director Valerie Gould said the recent teacher pay rises and rising construction costs in the building boom two years ago may have been the big contributors to increased education costs.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolaou said the fact fees were going up so much in the private sector reflected poorly on the public school sector.

He said people were voting with their feet and going to the private sector even while fees were rising, which said something about what parents thought of Government schools.

WA Secondary School Executives Association president Rob Nairn said students in Years 8 to 10 could get an education at a State school for a voluntary contribution of $235 a year. Costs were higher in Years 11 and 12 but much less than in private schools.

Source  :   www.thewest.com.au

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AIRASIA recently launched its Big Sale promotion by offering three million seats for both domestic and international destinations.

The booking period for both sectors during the Big Sale campaign is only until Sunday.

Bookings are for the travel period from Jan 11 to July 31 next year. The flights are available from its eight hubs – Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok, Jakarta, Bali and Bandung.

Guests can fly from Kuala Lumpur to domestic destinations such as Penang, Johor Baru from as low as RM9. Popular international destinations such as Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bangkok, Phuket are offered from as low as RM49.

Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, Bali and Bandung are offered from RM69 and the highly in demand “Kangaroo Routes” in Australia such as Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth are offered from RM149.

The airline is also extending the promotion to its recently launched routes such as Colombo, Taipei, and London from RM89, RM99 and RM479 respectively.

“This ‘Big Sale’ promises to be the sale of the year for AirAsia,” said AirAsia Group regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan.

“I dare say that it is even better than the free seats offered in the past as guests now save on administration fees and fuel surcharges as we have abolished both charges,” she said, adding that guests can now enjoy greater savings of up to 70% from the Big Sale.

“For example, with the past free seat offer, guests paid RM53.50 for Penang now they only pay RM9, Kuching was RM78.50, now RM29.  For international sectors, guests paid RM142.50 for Bali, now RM69. Singapore used to be RM122.50, now it’s RM29, Gold Coast was RM354, now RM149,” said Tan.

Promotional seats are limited and available exclusively online via www.airasia.com and mobile.airasia.com.

Source  :  www.thesundaily.com

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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left interest rates on hold at 3 percent as predicted.                                                 reserve_bank_400

A  survey by AAP had expected the RBA to leave the cash rate at the lowest since 1960.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said last weekend that it was obvious that rates will rise, while Minister for Financial Services, Chris Bowen, warned yesterday that rates can’t stay low forever.

Some economists believe the first rate rise could come this year, but the general view is that rates will remain on hold until the middle of next year.

In a statement released after the announcement, governor Glenn Stevens said the risk of “severe contraction” in the Australian economy had abated.

“Economic conditions in Australia have been stronger than expected a few months ago, with both consumer spending and exports notable for their resilience,” the statement says.

“Measures of confidence have recovered a good deal of ground.”

The statement adds: “The board’s judgment is that the present accommodative setting of monetary policy is appropriate given the economy’s circumstances.

“The board will continue to monitor how economic and financial conditions unfold and how they impinge on prospects for sustainable growth in economic activity and achieving the inflation target.”

 

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500_cabrio1FIAT HAS ANNOUNCED that the convertible version of its ever-so-fashionable 500 will be landing on Australian shores in the middle of next year; roughly a year after the car’s   European sales debut.

Exact specifications and pricing won’t be announced until the car’s local launch, but given the convertible packs the same mechanical hardware as its be-roofed stablemate, odds are high engine choices will be shared with the tin-top Fiat 500.

That means a 55kW 1.3 litre diesel, 51kW 1.2 litre petrol and 74kW 1.4 litre petrol should be offered, while a fuel-saving start-stop system will also feature on the 500C’s spec sheet.

But for many buyers it won’t be the engine line-up or economy rating that will be the 500C’s real drawcard. It’s all about looks, and in that department the diminutive Fiat ragtop doesn’t disappoint.

Source  :  www.themotorreport.com.au

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Diving with great white sharks and discovering shipwrecks is considered a “good day at the office” for Hugh Edwards.    great white                 
 
The self-proclaimed adrenalin junkie took a giant leap of faith when, at the age of 35, he threw in his job as a journalist and pursued a life-long dream to dive deep underwater and document his adventures.
 
Now 76 and with no plans to slow down, Mr Edwards, of Swanbourne, has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours.
 
His research over the past 50 years has been instrumental in the discovery of several historical wrecks.
 
He has also filmed underwater documentaries and worked alongside the late crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, saying he was “a thoroughly nice person”.
 
An award-winning author, Mr Edwards has penned more than 30 novels plus a number of historical books on his home state.

“Adventure is as addictive as any drug and you don’t realise that until you look back how one thing has led to another,” Mr Edwards said

“It’s a great thrill to be acknowledged for something I enjoy doing.”
 
Mr Edwards said he was most proud of his contribution to the discovery of the Dutch ship Batavia, and uncovering one of Australia’s darkest stories of mutiny after its sinking in 1629.
 
The father of three and grandfather of five plans to release a new book next year.

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