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Travel tips and things to do in Maui, Hawaii: Maui’s best wildlife experiences

Humpback whale doing tail slaps with the peaks of Molokai in the background. Photo: iStockSPONSORED ARTICLE

Maui’s main draw might be its pristine, white sand beaches, but it’s also home to some of Hawaii’s most impressively diverse wildlife. From diving with sharks to horseback riding in upcountry Maui, we’ve rounded up the top wildlife experiences on the island. Swim with turtles

Hawaiian green sea turtles, or Honu, are the pride of the Hawaiian islands and can be frequently spotted in the clear, shallow waters surrounding the island. Though you can certainly sign up for a boat trip to Turtle Town (tour operators like Leilani Maui will take you to swim amongst the turtles in their natural habitat), your best bet for a non-guided swim alongside these beautiful creatures is to take the leap off Black Rock, on the northern end of Kaanapali Beach. In the gentle surf directly below the cliff, you’ll find many turtles basking in the balmy waters (they’ll often crawl up right to the shore, too, though it’s unlawful to actually touch them). Snorkel safari

The richly biodiverse waters that surround Maui teem with over 300 species of colourful native reef fish, in addition to Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins and manta rays. The best way to get a taste of Maui’s colourful underwater universe is via “snorkel safari”—a group snorkeling tour that will take you through some of the island’s most beautiful and populous reefs along the coast. During the safari, you’ll be allowed to stop and hold sea urchins, starfish and sea cucumbers, and swim leisurely among spotted rays and octopus. The Ukumehame Snorkel Safari in West Maui takes you snorkeling through Olowalu, the island’s largest and healthiest offshore reef. Dive with sharks

If snorkeling and swimming with turtles don’t quite offer the adrenaline rush that you’re after, diving into a shark pit might do the trick. Okay, so it’s not an actual shark pit–”Shark Pit” is the name given to the dive spot at the south end of Lahaina—but it is the hangout of many white-tip reef sharks during the daytime. Averaging at just under two meters in length, white-tips aren’t nearly as intimidating as a Great White or hammerhead, but they’re certainly not friendly-looking, either—so keep your distance, even though they’re rarely aggressive towards humans. If you’re not an experienced diver, it’s best to go accompanied by a professional from a diver operator like Lahaina Divers (who’ll even take you to hammerhead dive sites further out, if you’re game). Horseback riding in upcountry Maui

Though Maui’s better known for its sea life, there are plenty of animal adventures to be had on land as well. At Piiholo Ranch in upcountry Maui, you can ride horses alongside real life Hawaiian cowboys (paniolo) in Maui’s wide-open upland fields. Don’t miss the Makawao Rodeo, held every fourth of July, where you can watch calf roping and traditional bareback bronco riding competitions. Whale watching

Every year from December through May, North Pacific humpback whales migrate to the tropical seas surrounding Hawaii, drawn particularly to Maui’s warm, shallow waters. The best whale watching usually happens off the coast of Lahaina, which was the Pacific’s most significant whaling port during the 18th century, but you can spot many whales from the beaches of Kaanapali, Kihei and Wailea. If you want to see whales surface up close, it’s best to invest in a guided cruise (the glass-bottomed Pride of Maui is one of the best out there and guarantees whale sightings or your money back), or whale watch from a SUP or kayak. Bottom fishing

If you’d rather catch fish than swim amongst them, Maui’s the place for you, too: the warm waters surrounding the island teem with fat, delicious snapper, amberjack, and Hawaiian salmon, among many other kinds of fish. The best way to fish on Maui is via a leisurely bottom fishing charter, which allows you to keep (and eat!) your catch, or on a longer sport fishing charter for the more serious fisherman. Operators like Fish Maui offer both at competitive rates, with the option of joining a share boat or having your own private charter.

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Chinan Rugby Union announces $285 million broadcast rights deal

Moving forward: ARU boss Bill Pulver. Photo: Christopher Pearce TV deal: Bill Pulver announces the new TV deal. Photo: Brendon Thorne

The n Rugby Union concedes its media rights arrangements for 2016-2020 fall short in monetary terms of the billion-dollar deals of the AFL and NRL. But the ARU still believes that per game the final SANZAR package will show the code is competitive.

On Thursday, the ARU announced that it will receive a total of $285 million in media rights revenue from the total package of SANZAR agreements, which represents a nevertheless impressive 148 per cent increase on revenue from the previous deal.

And ARU chief executive Bill Pulver also indicated that the five-year SANZAR package expected to be revealed in the New Year when the last of its 11 contracts are finalised, should be close to $1 billion. The AFL’s contract is valued at $2.5b for 2017 to 2022, while the NRL’s deal is worth $1.8b for 2018 to 2022.

Hence, Pulver believes SANZAR’s deal should be competitive against the AFL and NRL’s, saying: “If you look at the amount of content that is sold in our SANZAR rights and compare it to the amount of content in the AFL and NRL it is actually really comparable.

“The value per game is a very strong comparison and the total value is right up there.”

But earlier, when asked how the ARU’s arrangements compare to those of the AFL and NRL, Pulver said: “Anything with a ‘B’ in front of it is clearly tempting but we are very, very happy with our meagre pickings.”

Pulver said the revenue growth represents a rise from $23m a year to $57m a year.

“To achieve a 148 per cent growth in revenue from your broadcast outcome, I suspect is the largest increase of any code,” Pulver said.

“And it reflects, I think, the growing status we enjoy in the n sporting landscape. I’m confident that that sort of trend will continue.

“It’s not for us to try and match those codes in terms of the total broadcast value. It’s up to us to get the right growth we need for the growth of our game and I’m very confident that we’ve achieved that.”

Asked if n rugby can bridge the gap with AFL and NRL, Pulver said: “It will be interesting to see over time. When you look at the growth potential that we have for rugby – and rugby’s points of difference are really significant to the other codes.

“The internationality of our game – the Rugby World Cup really highlighted how our successful national team can galvanise the entire n public.”

Pulver pinpointed the rugby calendar next year as a likely boost, saying: “The first weekend of February we’ve got a super worldwide sevens event that will occur here in . That will get a lot of support.

“England have got a tour in June, coached by Eddie Jones against the Wallabies coached by Michael Cheika. That will get enormous support.

“Then we’ve got the Olympic Games in August. Every single n will watch our men’s and women’s team compete at the Olympics.

“Then we’ve got a grand slam tour to Europe. So we’ve real points of difference that will be accentuated in serious volume.”

Under the ARU’s new agreement, Fox Sports will retain the n rights for Test matches played in , New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the expanded 18-team Super Rugby competition

Network Ten will continue to be the n free-to-air broadcaster, having finalised a deal with Fox Sports to simulcast all Wallabies’ domestic Tests, the Bledisloe Cup and all matches played by the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship.

In a new element to its deal, the ARU will now get Super Rugby shown to a free-to-air audience, with Ten to show a full replay of the n Super Rugby match of the round each Sunday morning with a start time between 8am and 11am and a one-hour Super Rugby highlights show each Monday night. It will also broadcast full replays of all Super Rugby finals matches featuring an n team.

Pulver said the incremental revenue from the new media rights arrangements will enable n Rugby to revitalise the game at all levels.

“The ARU will have surplus funds to re-invest in the game from grassroots through to the Wallabies and to address strategic priorities to grow the game,” Pulver said.

Pulver said the key beneficiaries will be the n Super Rugby clubs that will collectively receive $10 million, but not to be used for player payments; community rugby that can expect “double” the investment it currently gets from the ARU; Sevens rugby, non-contact Viva rugby and high performance outcomes.

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Why Jennifer Lawrence had to learn to mop for her new movie, Joy

In Joy, Lawrence, right, plays entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop. Photo: Merie Weismiller As Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence built her own mega-franchise in The Hunger Games. Photo: Supplied

Lawrence, with Bradley Cooper, who plays a home-shopping TV network executive. Photo: Merie Weismiller

The film Winter’s Bone made Lawrence second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. Photo: Sebastian Mlynarski

Jennifer Lawrence groans when she’s asked about singing the classic Nancy and Frank Sinatra duet Something Stupid with co-star Edgar Ramirez in her new film Joy.

“David [O. Russell, the movie’s director] texted me last night to ask if he could put it on the soundtrack and this is what I texted him back,” the actress says as she digs around for her mobile phone and reads out her response verbatim. “‘David, no!!!’ and it is three exclamation marks. They put all the Hunger Games songs on an album and it’s going to look like I think I can sing! Oh, goddammit, I mean yes, I can’t say no to you, but ugh! Gross, I can’t listen to it; I have to go to bed.’ And I said yes, but it’s a groaning, reluctant yes.”

It’s the kind of unfiltered moment you come to expect when interviewing Lawrence, who may now be one of the most famous actresses on the planet but still blurts out whatever she’s thinking with such self-deprecating charm it’s impossible not to be, well, charmed.

Lawrence, 25, looks genuinely surprised when complimented about how unchanged she seems from our earlier interviews before the fame and Oscars. “But there would be no reason to change,” she says with a shrug. “I just have a job and I love my job. People react in funny ways to my job, but at the end of the day, that’s all it is.”

Joy is based on the true story of inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, a single mother from Long Island supporting two children, an ex-husband (Ramirez), mother (Virginia Madsen), father (Robert De Niro) and sister (Elisabeth Rohm), when she finds the courage to borrow money from her father’s wealthy new girlfriend (Isabella Rossellini) to build and pitch her “miracle mop” invention to an executive (Bradley Cooper) of a home-shopping TV network.

David O. Russell is equally enamoured of the woman many consider to be his muse, after their two previous films together – Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle – were his most successful (and earned Lawrence two Oscar nominations and one win).

“I’ve always thought Jennifer has an old soul,” the quirky director says. “When we met on Silver Linings, I thought, ‘Is she 20 or 40?’ As an artist, I’ve seen that she’s someone who can express numerous worlds and, for me, she was always the only one who could play Joy.”

Lawrence spent time with the real Joy Mangano, now 59, to prepare for the role. “Joy’s mind is endlessly fascinating,” Lawrence says, “and she still has hundreds of ideas for inventions!”

She also watched many hours of Mangano pitching her products on US television. “I was so impressed with her inventions that I actually tried to buy one until my friend reminded me I’d recorded the shows and it doesn’t work if it’s not live!”

Her next confession is that her co-star, former “sexiest man alive” Bradley Cooper, had to teach her how to mop. “You have to understand my mom was OCD so I had to clean my room and do laundry and clean my dishes, but I don’t think my mom would ever let a morsel of food get on the floor without bleaching the whole thing,” Lawrence says.

“Bradley’s mom bought everything from [US television network] QVC, and he had a miracle mop in his dorm room in college so he watched me mop in one scene and was like, ‘Dude, no!” and showed me a better way.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence performed in the local theatre as a youngster and at 14 convinced her mother to accompany her to New York City to become a professional actress. She landed minor roles on TV shows such as Monk, Cold Case and Medium before her 2010 indie film Winter’s Bone led to her becoming the second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. That resulted in not only a string of critically acclaimed films, an Academy Award and another Oscar nomination, but also her very own mega-franchise as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Lawrence’s endearing habit of speaking her mind resulted in a controversial essay she penned on Lena Dunham’s website about her discovery during the Sony hacks that she was being paid less “than the lucky people with dicks” on her recent films, including American Hustle.

“I completely understand when people say actors shouldn’t talk about politics and things they don’t know about, but this was my gender at stake and it was being threatened with unfairness and I thought, ‘What is the point of having this voice if it’s not to speak out for myself and for everyone else who can’t?’,” she says unapologetically.

“I realise that I am going to piss a lot of people off and that’s not going to be very good for my night sweats, but that’s OK.”

Lawrence hangs out with a posse of celebrity girlfriends, including Amy Schumer and singer Adele, but the reason is simple. “The friendship gets expedited a lot when you meet someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt has no agenda,” she says.

But clearly she doesn’t come with a cliquey Hollywood attitude. This is, after all, the self-confessed reality-show junkie who confessed in a recent Vogue interview that on the night of her 25th birthday party, friends surprised her with a visit from reality queen Kris Jenner, who presented her with a cake inscribed, ‘Happy Birthday, you piece of shit!’

The only time she seems tongue-tied is when asked about her relationship status, after a four-year stint with X-Men: First Class co-star Nicholas Hoult and a year with Coldplay singer Chris Martin before their breakup earlier this year.

“Next!” Lawrence says in a no-nonsense voice, pausing as she decides if she’ll continue that thought. Of course, she can’t help herself. “When I talk about boys, the world implodes. If I even casually say something to a reporter, that quote haunts me for the rest of my life,” she says, “so I am never, ever, ever talking about boys again!”

And that’s OK because, for a change, who she’s dating is the least interesting thing about Jennifer Lawrence.

Joy is in cinemas on December 26.Jennifer Lawrence’s movie family

Joy marks the third time Jennifer Lawrence has worked with the Hollywood “dream team”, including director David O. Russell and co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

In 2012, she was nominated for an Oscar after starring with Cooper and De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook and in 2013, she played Cooper’s insecure wife in American Hustle, earning her first Academy Award in the film, which also featured De Niro.

“There’s a very strong connection between all of us,” Lawrence admits. “I feel incredibly close to David and I know Bradley and Bob would say the same, but we also all have close personal relationships with each other too, and I don’t think that’s nearing an end.”

Russell says a bonus has been watching Lawrence grow up on his sets.

“Over the past five years, I’ve watched her become a woman,” he says. “I met her when she was 20 and she was asking Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, ‘What’s it like to have people recognise you?’ and then she came through the other side of it with them as her equals and is so wise beyond her years, she’s like the boss on our sets!”

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Oil at $US100 and the Birkin’s demise? Now that’s outrageous.

Oil at $US100 a barrel, a drought-driven outbreak of global inflation and the collapse of luxury goods brands.

Sound like outrageous predictions?

Well, they’re meant to be – but don’t be surprised if they come true, and best place a few investment bets just in case they do.

Such is the view of Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Denmark’s Saxo Bank, who at this time every year comes up with 10 “outrageous predictions” for the following year.

His forecasts for 2016 are a little bit cheeky, quite a bit contrarian and definitely outrageous. But in the crazy post-global financial crisis world of negative interest rates, $US40 a barrel oil, and flat-wage submission, anything with a tinge of risk is going to excite.

For instance, he sees the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) “supply-and-rule strategy” finally triggering a 150 per cent surge in the price of liquid gold when members agree a production cut.

“The long-awaited sign of an accelerated slowdown in non-OPEC production finally begins to flicker,” Jakobsen says.

“Suitably buoyed, OPEC catches the market on the hop with a downward adjustment in output. Oil in the frame

“The price mounts a quick recovery with investors scrambling to re-enter the market to the long side – once again bringing $US100/barrel prices onto the horizon.”

Perhaps more upsetting, at least to the rich, would be the death of luxury labels as the world goes all equality-conscious, eschewing the purchase of Hermes’ $US300,000 Birkin handbags and totally impractical Lamborghinis.

And the premise for this outrageous prediction?

“Faced with rising inequality and unemployment of over 10 per cent, Europe is considering the introduction of a basic universal income to ensure that all citizens can afford to meet their basic needs.

“In a more egalitarian society where other values are promoted, demand for luxury goods decreases sharply, [and] the sector collapses.” Still with us?

Well, what about a sharp turnaround in the fortunes of battered Brazil, which now stands on the brink of an economic depression because of low oil, political corruption, overspending and capital flight. The 2016 Olympic Games, which the country is hosting, come to the rescue, Jakobsen says, driving investment, returning stability and buoying emerging market financial assets around the world.

In the same vein, he sees the aforementioned oil-price spike saving the beleaguered Russian rouble, which has depreciated about 115 per cent against the US dollar in the last two years. It’ll recover about 20 per cent of this next year, Jakobsen says. The euro, too, gets a boost from its massive current account surplus and the end of greenback dominance, while rising US interest rates trigger a massive sell-off in the already jittery high-yield corporate bond market.

The problem is there are no buyers, so prices hit the floor, where the securities are mopped up by vulture funds and the like. El Nino and crop yields

Nor is there good news for and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, as the most extreme El Nino on record drives down crop yields, which pushes up food prices. Global inflation, long-gone and now missed, returns with a vengeance.

Silver, meanwhile, becomes the new gold, rallying 33 per cent as the production of solar panels, which use the metal, explodes.

But wait, there’s more!

Remember the 2000 dotcom bubble, whose implosion is often blamed for the aggressive interest-rate cutting that led to the subprime crisis and then the global financial crisis, which led to aggressive interest-rate cuts, which caused …?

Well, it’s back, as the new-generation Silicon Valley start-ups suck in investment dollars but struggle to actually make physical money as they focus on “adding users and trying to achieve critical mass”, Jacobsen  predicts.

Finally, and perhaps not that outrageously at all, Jakobsen sees the US Republican Party’s fortunes tank as their infighting intensifies and the Democrats expertly harness the votes of millions of Millennials’ frustrated by the lack of jobs and appalling level of political debate in the country.

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Gunmen terrorising Hunter businesses

POLICE are hunting as many as four gunmen who are terrorising businesses with a series of violent armed robberies across the Hunter.

Staff at the Adamstown post office were the latest to be threatened, this time as a shotgun was used to rob them of a small amount of cash on Tuesday afternoon.

The suspect forced his way behind a security counter, smashing a door in the process.

Newcastle City detectives are investigating links between the Adamstown robbery and the targeting of the Broadmeadow post office on October 1, where a man with a similar description robbed two staff of takings.

Tuesday’s bandit was described as beingaged about 25 to 35-years-old with a stocky build. He was last seen wearinga long-sleeved light-coloured business shirt, long trousers and a “Panama” style hat with a light-coloured face covering.

It is the latest attack in a worrying trend across the Hunter, where there have been at least seven robberies involving guns since the Broadmeadow heist –including four in six days.

The Newcastle Herald understands some of the hold-ups appear linked, although the Scone bank robbery on November 27 and the targeting of Dominos Pizza at Newcastle West on two days earlier appear to be robberies by gunmen ononce-only missions.

But detectives are also investigating whether the gunmen are targeting businesses across the Hunter and rural areas as they pass through.

The Sydney-based Robbery and Serious Crime Squad have taken a keen interest in several of the jobs, including the robberies of two Henny Penny stores at Edgeworth and Wallsend, and the brazen morning heist of an East Maitland camping store.

BANK: The gunman wanted over the Scone bank robbery. He escaped with a large amount of cash after threatening staff with the long-barrelled firearm. Picture: NSW Police.

Those three robberies may be the work of the same bandit.

At East Maitland, staff at Kangaroo Tent City and BBQs Warehousewere approached by the gunman in the loading dock of the warehouse, near the intersection of New England Highway and Chelmsford Drive, just after 9am.

PIZZA: The suspect in the Dominos pizza armed robbery at Newcastle West on November 18. He told staff he had a gun in his bag. Picture: NSW Police.

He threatened them and told staff to open a safe andwas seen leaving in a silver Ford Falcon.

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US interest rates: Markets rally as Federal Reserve removes uncertainty

Wall Street reacted favourably to the rate rise. The n dollar fell, then pushed higher, ultimately returning to pre-Fed decision levels.

The n sharemarket rallied on Thursday after global markets welcomed the US Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade.

The well-signposted 25 basis point rate rise, the first increase since 2006, inspired a relief rally in US shares, paving the way for the traditional “Santa rally” in the lead-up to Christmas.

The S&P 500 index closed 1.45 per cent higher at 2073, rallying strongly after the decision at 6am AEDT.

Local fund managers expected a strong start to Thursday trade, and it delivered, rising 1.3 per cent by midday AEDT to 5093.

“In the statement, it [the Fed] was still dovish, it still believes monetary policy is accommodative and they’re not going to rush,” Wingate Asset Management chief investment officer Chad Padowitz said.

“The markets seem to have taken it quite well – the equity markets are up, the US dollar’s down, not dramatically, which probably indicates to an extent the comments were a little bit more dovish than the markets were expecting.”

Peak Asset Management executive director Niv Dagan said the decision removed the “overhang and uncertainty” that had created investor angst in recent months, setting the stage for an end-of-year rally.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said perhaps ironically, the “Santa rally” traditionally begins on December 16, the same day the S&P/ASX 200 posted its second-best trading day of the year, ending 4.3 per cent higher.

Contango Asset Management chief investment officer George Boubouras said there was considerable value on offer on the local sharemarket.

“There’s just been elevated or heightening investor caution leading into the FOMC [US Federal Open Market Committee] meeting,” he said.

“For the week ahead and the month ahead there is still good value in relative assets versus risk-free bonds and cash.

“Santa’s little helpers are back to help us through the next six days leading into Christmas.”

In other markets, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index shifted around wildly after the decision and throughout Fed chair Janet Yellen’s press conference, but ultimately ended up where it was before the announcement.

The n dollar was buying US72.24 cents around 9am on Thursday morning.

“We suspect that when the dust settles on the Fed’s pronouncements (not that much has been stirred up so far) the dollar will gain a little more traction,” National Bank global co-head of FX strategy Ray Attrill said.

“With that, the n dollar will drop back below US72¢ and – NAB’s FX strategy team expects – down to near US70¢ in coming weeks.”

Oil continued its plunged throughout the US trading session, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil falling to to a mid-2008 low of $US35.33 before recovering slightly.

“We should see some buying [on the local sharemarket] coming from the blue chips, the banks and resources, with the exception of oil,” Mr Dagan said.

However, he said the fall in oil had been largely factored in by the markets, adding it was possible there would be buying in energy stocks in light of the Fed decision.

The relative stability of the markets after the announcement proved that the central bank had done its job, Mr Lucas said.

“That’s probably the most beautiful thing out of this.”

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Schools data: frequently asked questions

How to make sense of schools data covering VCE, VET and VCAL results and median study scores.RELATED:

Top schools: how didyour school perform?Are you a 40-plus VCE student?I’m a little bewildered by the amount of information provided in today’s supplement. Do I need to know all of this?

This table provides an overview of the VCE/VCAL programs offered by Victorian Government, Catholic and Independent schools and adult providers. By scanning across the table, you can discover how many VCE studies are offered at a particular school, how many students are enrolled in the VCE at level 3-4 in each school and also how many students are enrolled in VCAL.

There is information on the percentage of students in each school who have passed the VCE and the per cent of 40-plus study scores. There is a snapshot of the large scale of the VCE program across Victoria and how schools are faring in terms of pass rates, percentage of high study scores achieved, etc.

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which is responsible for compiling the data, recognises that the information does not provide a complete picture of the achievements of each school and its students. The On Track data, which will be released in 2016 will add to the picture by documenting how students fared after leaving school.

The data will show how many students went straight into employment, and how many were enrolled in tertiary courses. Taken together, On Track data and the table published here gives an insight into the successes and outcomes achieved by students going through the VCE and VCAL programs in Victorian schools.

Couldn’t the information presented here be summarised or condensed to make it easier to read?

It is important to provide the table in full and to include information both on the VCE programs offered by schools and VCAL programs. Secondary schools prepare their students for a range of pathways, and the information that we provide has to reflect this fact. For some students, the key need is to successfully complete a VCE or a VCAL and then move into employment or consider other options. Others are intent on gaining a start in the Vocational Education and Training area, through the VET in Schools program.

All students want the best possible results for themselves, whatever their chosen pathway. The information in the table describes students’ success in all these pursuits. To focus on just one or two would fail to do justice to the diverse goals that schools help students to achieve.

Isn’t this another way to ‘rank’ schools from ‘high end’ to ‘low end’?

No, not at all. In fact, creating a rank of schools based on median study score medians or the percent of high achievers would not provide a statistically valid indicator of school performance. Such a rank would take no account of the academic profile of each school’s students, or of the range of training or employment pathways taken by students in the school.

Creating rankings of ‘top schools’ can be misleading, because no single measure can capture the range of successes that occur in different schools. Just as a high VCE study score is not the only measure of a students’ worth, nor is the proportion of students with top study scores a measure of a schools’ worth. The newspapers publishing this information understand this point, and will be publishing the data in full without any ranking.

Can I use the tables to find the best school?

Everybody values schools in different ways. Choosing the ‘best’ school is a subjective decision. If you’re searching for a school for your son or daughter, ask yourself what is most important to you and your child. Maybe you would prefer a small school with a more intimate feel. Maybe a VET program is important to you. Your child might be more interested in completing VCAL or the International Baccalaureate.

Use the table to identify schools that might have the characteristics that you value most, but it is then critical to visit the school to obtain a more comprehensive view of the school. Talk to the Principal, and, if you can, to parents of children attending the school. Ask about the curriculum offered and the values upheld by the school. Look at the On Track data on student destinations, which is published mid-year. Once you put it all together, you will have a much better understanding of how well the school might meet your child’s needs.

What is the median and how is it derived?

Study scores provide a broad measure of achievement in each study, relative to the rest of the students in the state. An average performance earns a study score of 30, no matter what the study. Study scores between 30 and 40 are above average and study scores above 40 are exceptional. Similarly, study scores between 20 and 30 are below average. Very few study scores below 20 are awarded.

The median study score has been chosen as the best indicator of the typical level of achievement in a school. When all the study scores obtained by students in a school are ranked from highest to lowest, the one in the middle is the median.

At the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), we choose to present the median in preference to the more common average because it is unaffected by very high or very low scores.

Very low study scores often occur when a student fails to submit work, or to attend an examination. Such events could have a substantial effect on the average score, even to the extent of making it a poor reflection of what students in the school are actually achieving. The median, being anchored to the middle of the group, remains a good representation of typical achievement in the school.

The median, like any other statistic, represents the group only within a margin of error. For the data presented in this supplement, the band of uncertainty is typically one or two points in either direction. Thus a median of 30 is likely to be accurate within one or two points and we might think of it as represented by a range from 28 to 32. Such a school may or may not be different to another school’s median study score which falls within that range.

In the interactive, what do all the separate sections include?Number of VCE studies at unit 3-4 level taken up by students in 2015

The figure provided is the number of studies offered by the school. In some cases a school will put in place arrangements to allow their students to access studies not currently offered at their school. Details of such arrangements can be obtained from individual schools.

Number of VET certificates with 2015 enrolments

This reflects the range of choices available to students wishing to pursue studies in Vocational Education and Training (VET) within their VCE or VCAL programs. VET programs may be undertaken within the school or outside the school.

Availability of International Baccalaureate (Diploma)

The International Baccalaureate (Diploma) is an international senior secondary qualification. Students who undertake the IB Diploma are awarded an equivalent ATAR and are considered for tertiary selection in Victoria on a similar basis to VCE students. IB results are released in January.

Number of students enrolled in at least one VCE unit at level 3-4 in 2015

This figure reflects the size of the cohort undertaking studies at the highest level of VCE (units 3 and 4). It does not necessarily correspond to the size of the Year 12 enrolment in the school. Level 3-4 studies are designed to be undertaken in Year 12. However, the VCE provides flexibility that allows students to undertake some studies at this level before they reach Year 12.

Number of students enrolled in a VET certificate in 2015

This figure describes the number of students who have included at least one VET certificate (or a part thereof) in their VCE or VCAL program in 2015.

Number of students enrolled in VCAL in 2015

The number of students enrolled in the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning in 2015.

Percentage of VCE students applying for tertiary places

This figure is calculated from the number of students in 2015 that made a timely application for a tertiary course through VTAC, taken as a percentage of all those students eligible to do so.

Percentage of satisfactory VCE completions in 2015

Of those students eligible to complete the VCE in 2015, the percentage who did so.

Number of students awarded the VCE (Baccalaureate)

The number of students who have been awarded the Victorian Certificate of Education (Baccalaureate). This award recognises VCE students who have achieved a study score of at least 30 in English, Literature, English Language or at least 33 in English as an Additional Language, and have in total 5 or more study scores including a higher level Mathematics, and a Language.

Percentage of VET units of competency completed in 2015

Of those VET units of competency enrolled in 2015, the percentage completed.

Percentage of VCAL units completed in 2015

Of those VCAL units enrolled in 2015, the percentage completed.

Median VCE study score

VCE results are recorded in terms of study scores. Achievement is assessed on a scale of 0 to 50 and in all studies the average study score across the state is 30. The median study score is the middle score when all the study scores obtained by students of the school are ranked from highest to lowest; so it represents a ‘typical’ level of achievement in the school.

Percentage of study scores of 40 and over

A study score of 40 or above in any study represents exceptional performance (among the top nine per cent in the state). The percentage of such scores is an indication of the proportion of high achievers in each school.

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Top schools: how did yours perform?Interactive

VCE students from Nossal High school celebrate the completion of year 12 and the school’s VCE ranking. Photo: Joe ArmaoRELATED:

What all the data, including the median, meansAre you a 40-plus VCE student?***SCROLL DOWN TO SEARCH FOR YOUR SCHOOL***

Half its students have come from private schools and some travel for up to five hours a day to attend class.

Select-entry state school Nossal High is in high demand and it’s no wonder why.

The school has rocketed up the list of top VCE performers, moving from 26th place to 15th in the space of a year, with a median study score of 36.

Principal Roger Page said 58 per cent of his students received an ATAR of 90 or above.

“Our students come to us because they want excellent results and we will achieve that,” Mr Page says.

Located at the Monash University campus in Berwick and surrounded by paddocks, the school has a strong focus on collaborative learning and aims to prepare students for tertiary education.

“We know many high-performing students with high ATARs drop out of university. We don’t want that,” Mr Page says.

A Fairfax Media analysis of data released on Thursday by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority shows that select-entry state school Mac.Robertson Girls High is the top-performing Victorian school. It had a median study score of 38 and a staggering 38.2 per cent of its study scores were 40 or above.

Principal Dr Toni Meath said the school encouraged students to prioritise extracurricular activities during their VCE year, and to take up subjects that they were genuinely passionate about.

“The story of Mac.Rob is that girls who are getting the really high ATARs are also getting involved in musicals, drama productions and in sports … they’re not just studying away with their heads in their books. They are fully engaged in the school.”

Jewish schools continued to perform strongly, with Beth Rivkah Ladies College (37.8 per cent of study scores 40 or above), Bialik College (36.5 per cent), Mount Scopus (35 per cent) and Yeshivah College (23.2 per cent) all finishing in the top 10.

Principal of Yeshivah Beth Rivkah College, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, said the school’s strong religious education helped students excel in all areas of their learning.

“We find that the students who excel in Jewish education also excel in their general education. A lot of what we call 21st century thinking skills are skills that have been applied to Jewish learning for the past 1700 years. It is all about analysis, collaborative learning, problem solving hypotheses, testing hypotheses … today’s way of approaching real life world scenarios has long been part of Jewish learning.”

Ballarat Clarendon College was the best regional performer, finishing in seventh place with a median study score of 37.

Melbourne High, Shelford Girls’ Grammar, Fintona Girls School and Lauriston Girls School were also among the top 10 performers.

Big improvers included East Doncaster Secondary College, which lifted its median study score from 31to 32and Charlton College which lifted its median from 31 to 33.

Victoria University adjunct professor Richard Teese said he was not surprised that select-entry state schools and private schools often finished in the top 10.

He said both carefully selected their students, and private schools “bent over backwards” during the VCE. They were also better resourced than state schools, who welcomed all students.

“Private schools are much more likely to put in special consideration requests. No stone is left unturned in terms of exam tactics.”

Fairfax Media has ranked Victorian schools based first on their median study scores, followed by the percentage of scores of 40 and above.

Increasingly, parents select schools for their children based on VCE and NAPLAN data. Use the interactive below tofind Victorian schools, the programs they offer and data on their students’ achievements for 2015.

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Sydney-Hobart race has Hunter touches

IT’S not often you get to interview a Sydney-Hobart skipper while he’s sitting in hospital awaiting results from a possible heart attack, but Glen Picasso knows better than most that worse things happen at sea.

“Funny story,” the man nicknamed ‘Cyril’ said dryly. “But I’ll have to call you back … the doctor’s coming over.”The news was good, although the 58-year-old will be monitored before the Sydney-Hobart start on Boxing Day. When asked what it meant for his race prospects he quipped, “Nothing … Everyone else is freaking out but I’m fine.”

SOCIAL: Skipper Glen Picasso will be aboard She’s the Culprit along with a crew that includes four Hobart debutantes: Kristen Anderson, Kathy Hall, Tristan Hough and Richard Hooper plus HMRI medical researcher Trent Butler.

HOPEFUL: Newcastle yacht Dare Devil contested its first Hobart race last year with an international crew and finished 52nd overall.

Picasso had been at home on Monday night when he felt chest pain and summoned an ambulance. He’s tough as teak though, having survived the 1998 Hobart storm aboard Tony Mowbray’s Solo Globe Challenger before being air-lifted.He’d spent the day delivering She’s the Culprit – an Inglis/Jones 39 co-owned with Glenn Bulmer and David O’Dowd – from Lake Macquarie to Newcastle Harbour for some final odd jobs.The owners couldn’t resist returning to Hobart for 2015 after winning PHS overall last year. They also claimed the inaugural Corinthian Trophy eclipsing race victor Wild Rose.“It was a glamour run,” Picasso recalled. “We set the spinnaker off Jervis Bay and dropped it at Tasman Light … hitting a top speed of 23 knots.”

Picasso is relishing the chance to share the experience with a crew that includes four Hobart debutantes:Kristen Anderson, Kathy Hall, Tristan Hough and Richard Hooper. HMRI medical researcher Trent Butler is lining up for his third race.As well as being a social boat, Culprit is also successful. It was second overall (PHS) in the 2014 Sydney Gold Coast race and won PHS Division 2 in the 2012 Pittwater to Coffs race.

Only two other Newcastle yachts are lining up on Boxing Day, Sibby Ilzhofer’s Dare Devil and Mick Martin’s Frantic, making it one of our smaller contingents.Dare Devil contested its first Hobart race last year with an international crew and finished 52nd overall. Sibby received the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy awarded to the first female skipper to finish.Travel Play Live is supporting Dare Devil’s campaign in partnership with White Ribbon to raise money and awareness about violence against women.

Former Wallaby Mick Martin is hoping to recapture the form that won him the 2013 Gosford-Lord Howe Island race aboard his well-travelled TP52 Frantic but will need strong winds and some inspiration from new skiff-sailing crewmen Brad Greenrod and Jonathan Francis.Frantic was 48th overall in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart after finishing 24th in 2013.

A Newcastle yacht there in spirit at least is the former Funnel-Web, now christened Climate Action Now. Queensland-based skipper Lisa Blair bought the Open 50 from Ivan MacFadyen with the goal of becoming the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica, solo, non-stop and unassisted.As Funnel-Web, the Hick-designed 50-footer finished the Melbourne-Osaka race. The Sydney-Hobart race will help her raise awareness of the global climate.The gun fires at 1pm on December 26.

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Saudi millionaire Ehsan Abdulaziz cleared of raping teenager after claiming he fell on her

A court has cleared a Saudi millionaire for the rape of a teenage girl. Photo: supplied

A Saudi millionaire has been cleared of raping a teenager after claiming he might have accidentally penetrated the 18-year-old when he tripped and fell on her.

Property developer Ehsan Abdulaziz, 46, was accused of forcing himself on the teenager as she slept off a night of drinking on the sofa of his Maida Vale flat in west London.

He had already had sex with her 24-year-old friend and said he might have slipped over on top of the younger woman.

The teenager met Abdulaziz in the exclusive Cirque le Soir nightclub in the West End on August 7 last year where she had been spending the evening with her friend, who was known to the businessman.

He invited them to join him at his £1000-per-night ($2075) table and then offered them a ride home in his Aston Martin, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The three went back to his apartment, where he offered them vodka before taking the second woman into the bedroom for sex. The teenager claimed she woke in the early hours with Abdulaziz on top of her forcing himself inside her.

Abdulaziz said he had accidentally fallen on the younger woman as she tried to seduce him, and that was how traces of his DNA were found in her.

He said he had gone to wake her to offer her a T-shirt to sleep in or a taxi ride home, but she had pulled him on top of her and placed his hand between her legs.

The jury acquitted Abdulaziz of one count of rape after just 30 minutes of deliberations.

In his evidence, Abdulaziz demonstrated how the complainant had put her hand behind his head to pull her towards him, causing him to fall down.

“I’m fragile,” he said. “I fell down but nothing ever happened, between me and this girl, nothing ever happened.”

He said it was possible he had semen on his hands after the sexual encounter with her friend.

During the trial, Judge Martin Griffiths permitted the rare step of allowing 20 minutes of Abdulaziz’s evidence to be heard in private.

Telegraph, UK

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