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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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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is urging the media and the public to ignore hoax emails circulating on the internet about government benefits provided to asylum seekers and refugees permanently settling in Australia.

Some of the hoax emails also falsely claim Australia accepts terrorists and other criminals under its international obligations.

“The text in these emails has many gross inaccuracies,” a DIAC spokesman said.

“Irregular maritime arrivals are subject to thorough security and identity checks and must satisfy the character test before being a decision is made about protection.

“Only those who engage Australia’s international obligations receive refugee status; indeed, the government has already returned people who were not refugees.

“Figures quoted in these emails also bear no resemblance to income-support payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia.

“Asylum seekers in Australia who have not yet had their protection claims decided have no access to Centrelink benefits.

“In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas have access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents.”

The spokesman said refugees received no cash payments under Australia’s Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy. He said any claims that refugees are given free houses were ridiculous.

“DIAC helps eligible refugees with English-language lessons and settling-in assistance including basic goods to start a household, as well as subsidies for rent and utilities for their first four weeks in the country,” the spokesman said.

“We would strongly encourage anyone who receives an email claiming asylum seekers or refugees are treated more favourably than Australian permanent residents to hit the delete button and ignore these ridiculous claims.”

Media Enquiries: (02) 6264 2244

Source  :  http://www.newsroom.immi.gov.au/media_releases/750

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A woman from Melbourne has said she has no connection with missing British toddler Madeleine McCann after a friend in Sydney reported her to police.rt_maddy_mccann_090501_mn

The search for Madeleine swept across Australia with a string of sightings after private detectives revealed they were looking for a Victoria Beckham lookalike.

A picture of the woman was released by British police.

Ms Aron, who actually lives in Madeline Street, the Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris.

She has said she was shocked that anybody may have thought that I have some connection to this case. I can’t understand how it may have happened. I can honestly say I have no connection to the little girl.

She also announced that she has not been out of  Australia since 2000.

A neighbour said she thought the link might have been made because Ms Aron spoke Spanish and had a fair-haired child.

An elderly Sydney woman went into Burwood police station and filed a report claiming that a friend she had met in Spain, and travelled with in Portugal, was the woman in the identikit.

NSW Police said: ”NSW Police Force detectives have received information about a woman who is similar in description to the woman being sought by private investigators investigating the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann.

An Australian-registered cruiser that was in Port Olimpic marina in Barcelona at the time the mystery woman was asking the new witness if he had brought her new daughter.

Reporters from London yesterday speculated that it was a $12 million powerboat belonging to a wealthy West Australian family. A spokesman for the family said: ”This is the most ridiculous speculation I have ever heard. It’s ludicrous.”

Investigators working for the McCanns said they had received more than 600 emails after issuing the Posh Spice lookalike appeal.

A spokesman for the family said most of those responses had come from Australia.

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CHRIS Badenoch’s elimination has left Poh and Julie to the final.                                                                          chris-badenoch-masterchef-hats-hubris                                                                              

Poh, is lucky to be in the final after she was given a second chance and allowed back on the show two weeks ago.

Julie, mother-of-three who is also in the final  has consistently been in the bottom two and faced numerous pressure tests but has always managed to scrape through.

Badenoch had dismissed Julie’s chances of staying in the competition in a magazine article earlier this week. 

The final three had to impress guest judge Donna Hay with the three dishes they wanted to see in their first cookbook.

Badenoch’s dished up quail, beef cheeks with sherry, and pigs trotters cooked in beer.

“It’s hugely disappointing. Unfortunately some of my dishes didn’t live up to my usual standards,” he said

Badenoch was distraught to miss out on Sunday’s final.

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