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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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In his first interview since he miraculously survived almost two weeks lost amid freezing temperatures in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, the 19-year-old from north London, who was found by bushwalkers last Wednesday, also denied his story was a hoax.

“I was thinking I might die on that mountain,” he told the 60 Minutes current affairs television program in Australia in an interview for which he was paid an estimated $200,000 (£100,000).

“I had actually written some goodbye notes and things to my family saying, my last walk, saying sorry, explaining how I’d got lost and different things like that.

“I’m not a particularly religious person but I started thinking about God and I was praying and saying, ‘Surely you can move a helicopter an inch and find me,’ and ‘Why won’t you just help me?’”

Mr Neale returned to the location of his near-fatal bushwalk with the television crew after being released from hospital in Katoomba on Friday.

He posed for photos at the Narrow Neck Plateau near Katoomba where he had been discovered last Wednesday by bushwalkers, and was then flown over the Blue Mountains by helicopter.

He said he had lost the notepad with his goodbye letters, and his digital camera, while trying to get out of the dense bushland.

His incredible tale of survival – where he endured 12 nights in freezing temperatures, eating kangaroo berries and geebung weed, and drinking from local streams – has attracted many sceptics questioning the veracity of his story.

However Mr Neale remains adamant that he became lost after getting disorientated by the sun, and dismissed talk his disappearance was a hoax or a stunt to make money.

“I know what happened, and I know the people who were out searching for me,” he said in the interview, which was set to air in Australia on Sunday night and will be broadcast in the UK on Sky.

“They know that it happened and that’s good enough for me. People can say what they want because I’m not lying. It’s the truth.”

Mr Neale and his father Richard Cass hosted drinks in Katoomba on Friday night for some of the scores of volunteers who searched the rugged bushland looking for the lost backpacker.

Mr Cass, who had flown to Australia from the family home in London to help search for his son, returned to England on Saturday.

Mr Neale will now travel by train to Perth to stay with relatives as he cannot fly for eight weeks due to air bubbles on his lungs.

Source  :  www.timesonline.co.uk

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ROVE McManus and Tasma Walton have tied the knot in a secret ceremony on a beach in Broome, Western Australia.  rove

They were married yesterday and celebrated the day with a small group of close family and friends.

It was Tasma who proposed to Rove, having first asked his mother for her blessing. There are no honeymoon plans and both Rove and Tasma will be returning to the east coast for work commitments.

Tasma said: “The day was everything we hoped for: simple, quiet and intimate, in a beautiful Broome landscape with a small group of family and close friends celebrating beside us.

Rove said: “Tasma and I are very happy and look forward to that continuing for a long time to come. It was wonderful to get to share that happiness with both our families and friends around us.”

Tasma wore a white, vintage 1970’s sundress. Rove wore no shoes.

The news comes as a shock given Walton, just two weeks ago, shut down the prospect of imminent marriage, saying: “Beyond this year, we’ll see what happens”.

News of their relationship hit the headlines in October 2007, a year after McManus lost his wife, Belinda Emmett, to cancer.

In a recent interview with the Herald Sun, McManus, renowned for guarding his privacy, confessed he was in a state of happiness that, two years ago, he’d have thought impossible.

“Yes, and not only that, it’s wonderful to have someone to share it with again,” he said.

Read full article in  http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25649256-5012974,00.html  :

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