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The GCSE language loophole: Hundreds of British pupils took English exam meant for foreign students

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A group of schools has been criticised for entering hundreds of English-speaking teenagers into a GCSE exam aimed at pupils who moved here from abroad.

Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE – even though 95 per cent of the pupils spoke only English.

The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables. The six schools, which altogether spent about £50,000 entering 700 pupils into the IGCSE, are part of the Harris chain of 48 state-funded primaries and secondaries led by Sir Dan Moynihan – Britain’s best-paid academy chief on £450,000 a year.

Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London (pictured) – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE

Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London (pictured) – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE

Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London (pictured) – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE

The Cambridge International GCSE in English as a Second Language, which costs £67 per entrant, is designed to allow non-native English speakers to show what they have learned. Until this year the qualification could be used as the equivalent to a GCSE in statistics rating school performances. The loophole has now been closed.

The Mail understands that when internal concerns were raised about the use of the exam for 153 pupils at Harris Orpington – which last month received a highly critical ‘Requires Improvement’ Ofsted rating – senior leaders argued it would provide ‘good exam practice’.

A Harris Orpington source said: ‘It is absolutely disgraceful this struggling school should insult its pupils by making them do an exam designed solely for foreigners learning the language. We thought it was a naked attempt to boost the school in league tables. The poor kids knew it was wrong.

‘Dan Moynihan is the boss, he sits on the governing body and earns half a million a year. How can he justify his pay when this happens at not just one, but six of his schools?’

The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables (file image)

The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables (file image)

The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables (file image) 

The source added: ‘The results weren’t that impressive, either.’

The chain receives £230million of taxpayers’ money every year and teaches 36,000 pupils.

Harris claimed the use of the English tests did not significantly improve the league table ratings of the six schools involved, but has refused to release full results.

A spokesman also refused to comment on Sir Dan’s knowledge of the English exam, but admitted putting pupils through it was ‘inappropriate’ and that the practice has now stopped. They refused to discuss the group’s use of public funds.

Ofsted strategy director Luke Tryl warned in February that un-named schools were guilty of ‘pure gaming’ of league tables in entering native-English speakers for the specialist foreigners’ exam.

A Department for Education spokesman said last night: ‘The department has now removed International GCSEs from its approved list and it no longer counts in performance tables.’ 

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Tony Jones QUITS the Today show after less than a year as sports reporter

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While Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight have been axed from the Today show, sports presenter Tony Jones insists he is leaving the program by choice.

Tony, 58, officially announced his resignation on Friday, telling the Herald Sun he has been struggling with an ‘unsustainable’ workload since joining Today in January.

‘It’s certainly been a wild ride over the past year, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working on the Today show,’ he told the newspaper.

'Something had to give': Today sports presenter Tony Jones, 58, has quit Nine's breakfast show after struggling with an 'unsustainable' workload

'Something had to give': Today sports presenter Tony Jones, 58, has quit Nine's breakfast show after struggling with an 'unsustainable' workload

‘Something had to give’: Today sports presenter Tony Jones, 58, has quit Nine’s breakfast show after struggling with an ‘unsustainable’ workload

‘However, I came to the conclusion several months ago that juggling those commitments, together with Nine News, Sunday Footy Show and 3AW was not sustainable,’ Tony added. 

‘Something had to give,’ he concluded. 

Despite stepping down as Today’s regular sports correspondent, Tony will still file occasional Melbourne-based stories next year.  

Uncomfortable: His resignation announcement came hours after Tony appeared in a painfully awkward segment on the Today show shortly before 6am. Pictured (left to right): Tom Steinfort, Deborah Knight, Georgie Gardner and Tony Jones

Uncomfortable: His resignation announcement came hours after Tony appeared in a painfully awkward segment on the Today show shortly before 6am. Pictured (left to right): Tom Steinfort, Deborah Knight, Georgie Gardner and Tony Jones

Uncomfortable: His resignation announcement came hours after Tony appeared in a painfully awkward segment on the Today show shortly before 6am. Pictured (left to right): Tom Steinfort, Deborah Knight, Georgie Gardner and Tony Jones

Tony’s resignation announcement came just hours after a painfully awkward segment aired on the Today show shortly at around 6am on Friday.

During the segment, Tony became visibly irritated with co-anchors Deborah Knight and George Gardner, rudely shutting down their attempts at ‘banter’.

Deborah, 46, even apologised to the sports presenter after he had berated her for asking if he would bring his dog to the racetrack.

‘Deb, we’re at a racetrack,’ Tony snapped back. ‘Probably not a great idea to bring the dog, I wouldn’t have thought.’

Bad mood? Shortly before 6am, Tony (pictured) became visibly irritated with co-anchors Deborah Knight and George Gardner, rudely shutting down their attempts at 'banter'

Bad mood? Shortly before 6am, Tony (pictured) became visibly irritated with co-anchors Deborah Knight and George Gardner, rudely shutting down their attempts at 'banter'

Bad mood? Shortly before 6am, Tony (pictured) became visibly irritated with co-anchors Deborah Knight and George Gardner, rudely shutting down their attempts at ‘banter’

‘I thought it might’ve been good to have Archie there to cheer you up,’ Deborah responded, trying to lighten the mood.

As newsreader Tom Steinfort began to speak, Tony cut in: ‘I’m in a great mood, I’m in a fantastic mood… I just love being here.’

Deborah, who seemed genuinely affronted by Tony’s sarcasm, replied: ‘Okay, well sorry for asking. Never mind. Good on you, TJ.’

Unpopular: Today's ratings have been on a steady decline since 2016, with viewers flocking to Channel Seven's Sunrise and ABC News Breakfast instead

Unpopular: Today's ratings have been on a steady decline since 2016, with viewers flocking to Channel Seven's Sunrise and ABC News Breakfast instead

Unpopular: Today’s ratings have been on a steady decline since 2016, with viewers flocking to Channel Seven’s Sunrise and ABC News Breakfast instead

Prior to this awkward exchange, Tony had already been involved in an uncomfortable back and forth with Georgie, 49.

Tony had asked the anchors which Australian dishes they would include on a menu for French tourists, to which Georgie replied: ‘A kangaroo burger, maybe.’

While kangaroo meat is sold in supermarkets across Australia and has been exported to over 55 countries, her answer was met with a condescending response. 

Remember this? Jones famously shared an awkward moment with fellow presenter Rebecca Judd when she dodged his farewell kiss in 2016

Remember this? Jones famously shared an awkward moment with fellow presenter Rebecca Judd when she dodged his farewell kiss in 2016

Remember this? Jones famously shared an awkward moment with fellow presenter Rebecca Judd when she dodged his farewell kiss in 2016 

‘Oh, you’d just go and slaughter a kangaroo, would you, Georgie?’ Tony said.

When Georgie argued that kangaroo meat is widely available across the country, Tony responded abrasively: ‘You can’t eat Skippy.’

It comes as Kyle Stefanovic and Allison Langdon prepare to take the helm at Today early next year. 

Incoming: It comes as Kyle Stefanovic and Allison Langdon prepare to take the helm at Today early next year

Incoming: It comes as Kyle Stefanovic and Allison Langdon prepare to take the helm at Today early next year

Incoming: It comes as Kyle Stefanovic and Allison Langdon prepare to take the helm at Today early next year 

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Sydney’s ring of fire: Map shows the areas most at risk from bushfires

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Every suburb in Sydney must brace for devastating bushfires on Tuesday as 37C temperatures, 10 per cent humidity and 60kmh winds create ‘catastrophic’ conditions, fire chiefs have warned. 

The suburbs most directly at risk are near the bushland areas around the city such as the Hawkesbury region and Hornsby in the north, Penrith in the west and Camden and Sutherland in the south.

But fire bosses have warned ‘no area is entirely safe’ as high winds could send dangerous embers capable of sparking secondary fires towards inner suburbs such as Manly and even the CBD, home to the Opera House.

‘We want to make it clear that everywhere in Sydney and the surrounding area may be affected,’ said Ben Shepherd of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Scroll down for video 

The suburbs most directly at risk of fire are near the bushland areas around the city such as the Hawkesbury region and Hornsby in the north, Penrith in the west and Camden, Campbelltown and Sutherland in the south. Fire chiefs cannot predict exactly where fires will be and have urged residents to keep up with the situation which may change due to the weather

The suburbs most directly at risk of fire are near the bushland areas around the city such as the Hawkesbury region and Hornsby in the north, Penrith in the west and Camden, Campbelltown and Sutherland in the south. Fire chiefs cannot predict exactly where fires will be and have urged residents to keep up with the situation which may change due to the weather

The suburbs most directly at risk of fire are near the bushland areas around the city such as the Hawkesbury region and Hornsby in the north, Penrith in the west and Camden, Campbelltown and Sutherland in the south. Fire chiefs cannot predict exactly where fires will be and have urged residents to keep up with the situation which may change due to the weather

Danger: Sydney is facing 'catastrophic' fire conditions on Tuesday. Pictured: A smokey haze over Port Macquarie, northern NSW on Sunday night

Danger: Sydney is facing 'catastrophic' fire conditions on Tuesday. Pictured: A smokey haze over Port Macquarie, northern NSW on Sunday night

Danger: Sydney is facing ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions on Tuesday. Pictured: A smokey haze over Port Macquarie, northern NSW on Sunday night

State of emergency: Fire chiefs warned that conditions on Tuesday could be so bad that it will be too dangerous for firefighters to try to put out the flames. Pictured: A smokey haze over Port Macquarie, northern NSW on Sunday

State of emergency: Fire chiefs warned that conditions on Tuesday could be so bad that it will be too dangerous for firefighters to try to put out the flames. Pictured: A smokey haze over Port Macquarie, northern NSW on Sunday

State of emergency: Fire chiefs warned that conditions on Tuesday could be so bad that it will be too dangerous for firefighters to try to put out the flames. Pictured: A smokey haze over Port Macquarie, northern NSW on Sunday

Raging: A huge inferno took hold near Yeppoon, north Queensland. Almost 50 fires are burning in Queensland with crews focused on three that could threaten lives

Raging: A huge inferno took hold near Yeppoon, north Queensland. Almost 50 fires are burning in Queensland with crews focused on three that could threaten lives

Raging: A huge inferno took hold near Yeppoon, north Queensland. Almost 50 fires are burning in Queensland with crews focused on three that could threaten lives

Map of horror: A diagram issued by the Rural Fire Service warns of a catastrophic danger - the highest level - to the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter regions as temperatures will hit 37C on Tuesday

Map of horror: A diagram issued by the Rural Fire Service warns of a catastrophic danger - the highest level - to the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter regions as temperatures will hit 37C on Tuesday

Map of horror: A diagram issued by the Rural Fire Service warns of a catastrophic danger – the highest level – to the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter regions as temperatures will hit 37C on Tuesday

What does a state of emergency mean? 

A state of emergency allows emergency services personnel to:

Direct the public to evacuate an area or not enter an area

Order power and gas supplies to be shut off

Shore up or pull down buildings

Enter premises to facilitate the exercise of these powers.

‘The high winds we are expecting on Tuesday mean that embers travel large distances. For example, if there is a fire in Garigal National Park then embers may fall in and around Manly,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

Mr Shepherd said that embers or ash may even fall in the CBD, adding: ‘We want everyone to be aware of the danger.’ 

On Monday morning, as more than 100 fires burned in New South Wales and Queensland, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian officially declared a state of emergency for the first time since October 2013.

Fire chiefs warned that conditions on Tuesday could be so bad that it will be too dangerous for firefighters to try to put out the flames.

‘In those conditions, fire behaviour is erratic and extreme to say the least and we won’t be putting fires out when they take hold,’ said NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

‘Suppression is futile. The focus is on life safety and life protection… The risk is absolutely real.’

Amid Australia’s worst drought on record, devastating fires are ravaging the east coast earlier in the year than normal. 

On guard: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Monday at RFS HQ) officially declared a state of emergency which will last for seven days - as fire chiefs warned the infernos will be too dangerous to put out

On guard: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Monday at RFS HQ) officially declared a state of emergency which will last for seven days - as fire chiefs warned the infernos will be too dangerous to put out

On guard: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Monday at RFS HQ) officially declared a state of emergency which will last for seven days – as fire chiefs warned the infernos will be too dangerous to put out

A bird's eye view: A photo from a plane over north eastern New South Wales as more than 100 blazes ravage Queensland and NSW

A bird's eye view: A photo from a plane over north eastern New South Wales as more than 100 blazes ravage Queensland and NSW

A bird’s eye view: A photo from a plane over north eastern New South Wales as more than 100 blazes ravage Queensland and NSW

Helping hand: A resident puts out small fires as he rides his motorcycle in Old Bar, New South Wales on Sunday

Helping hand: A resident puts out small fires as he rides his motorcycle in Old Bar, New South Wales on Sunday

Helping hand: A resident puts out small fires as he rides his motorcycle in Old Bar, New South Wales on Sunday

Ravaged: A burnt car at a property destroyed by a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales - as the worst is yet to come

Ravaged: A burnt car at a property destroyed by a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales - as the worst is yet to come

Ravaged: A burnt car at a property destroyed by a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales – as the worst is yet to come

The Sydney councils suffering ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions on Tuesday: A full list

The Hills

Blacktown

Blue Mountains

Burwood

Camden

Campbelltown

Canada Bay

Fairfield

Hawkesbury 

 Hornsby

Hunters Hill  

Kogarah

Ku-ring-gai

Lane Cove

Liverpool

Mosman

North Sydney  

Parramatta 

Penrith 

Randwick 

Ryde

Strathfield  

 Sutherland

Sydney

Waverley

 Willoughby 

Woollahra 

Bayside

Canterbury-Bankstown

Central Coast

Cumberland

Georges River

Inner West

Northern Beaches  

Source: NSW RFS 

Over the weekend a man and two women in their sixties died in northern New South Wales as they attempted to flee too late – and hundreds of residents have lost their homes.

Apocalyptic footage showed the sky over Port Macquarie turn a vibrant orange colour due to the flames and smoke on Sunday night.

Millions of dollars worth of damage has been caused as insurance companies send specialist disaster teams into fire-ravaged areas. 

The Insurance Council has declared the NSW North Coast to be in a state of catastrophe, meaning that claims there will be looked at as a priority.  

Destruction: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Taree, New South Wales by spraying water on a smoldering tree

Destruction: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Taree, New South Wales by spraying water on a smoldering tree

Destruction: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Taree, New South Wales by spraying water on a smoldering tree

Firefighters from Tasmania are being mobilised to relieve exhausted Queensland crews, with the danger far from over. Pictured: A huge inferno near Yeppoon, north Queensland

Firefighters from Tasmania are being mobilised to relieve exhausted Queensland crews, with the danger far from over. Pictured: A huge inferno near Yeppoon, north Queensland

Firefighters from Tasmania are being mobilised to relieve exhausted Queensland crews, with the danger far from over. Pictured: A huge inferno near Yeppoon, north Queensland

Inferno: A fire ravages the land near Glen Innes, New South Wales as a series of devastating blazes sweep through the east coast

Inferno: A fire ravages the land near Glen Innes, New South Wales as a series of devastating blazes sweep through the east coast

Inferno: A fire ravages the land near Glen Innes, New South Wales as a series of devastating blazes sweep through the east coast

Damage: On Sunday a fire truck was hit by falling branches at Nambucca Heads and two firefighters were rushed to hospital with injuries

Damage: On Sunday a fire truck was hit by falling branches at Nambucca Heads and two firefighters were rushed to hospital with injuries

Damage: On Sunday a fire truck was hit by falling branches at Nambucca Heads and two firefighters were rushed to hospital with injuries

In New South Wales some 40 fires are raging uncontained as total fire bans are in place for Monday and Tuesday.

Almost 50 fires are burning in Queensland with crews focused on three that could threaten lives as firefighters from Tasmania are being mobilised to relieve exhausted crews. 

Climate change campaigners are blaming the disaster on global warming – but Scott Morrison on Sunday refused to say if climate change is a factor.

‘My only thoughts today are with those who have lost their lives and their families,’ he said after he was heckled by a protester in Taree where he was visiting victims.

Ms Berejiklian mimicked his stance on Monday, saying: ‘I thought it was inappropriate that people were trying to talk about climate change yesterday when people wanted to stay alive.’

Ruins: A house destroyed by a bushfire is seen in Torrington, near Glen Innes. Dozens of homes have been ruined by the fires

Ruins: A house destroyed by a bushfire is seen in Torrington, near Glen Innes. Dozens of homes have been ruined by the fires

Ruins: A house destroyed by a bushfire is seen in Torrington, near Glen Innes. Dozens of homes have been ruined by the fires

Like father, like son: NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers Bob (left) and Greg Kneipp, a father and son, pose for a photo after successfully defending a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes

Like father, like son: NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers Bob (left) and Greg Kneipp, a father and son, pose for a photo after successfully defending a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes

Like father, like son: NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers Bob (left) and Greg Kneipp, a father and son, pose for a photo after successfully defending a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes

Fires take their toll: More than 100 are hurt by infernos 

Doctors and paramedics on the ground have treated more than 100 people hurt during NSW’s devastating bushfires, 20 of them firefighters injured trying to protect communities. 

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan is considering bringing in extra resources from interstate.

‘Over the last few days our doctors and paramedics have been exceedingly busy; they’ve treated over 100 patients for fire-related activity,’ he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

‘We had a whole range of things that have been confirmed from very severe burns, sadly resulting in a loss of life in some instances, right down to minor injuries and minor burns.’

Mr Morgan paid tribute to the firefighters his teams had treated who were injured in the line of duty.

‘That’s something that we should all be recognising,’ he said.

‘Up to 20 (of the people treated) have been directly related to firefighters being injured while protecting their own communities.’

Mr Morgan said 30 additional ambulance crews would be deployed across the state to ensure additional protection as well as extra air assets.

Keeping watch: Firefighters keep a close eye on a bushfire approaching in Old Bar, New South Wales as they battle to control the blazes

Keeping watch: Firefighters keep a close eye on a bushfire approaching in Old Bar, New South Wales as they battle to control the blazes

Keeping watch: Firefighters keep a close eye on a bushfire approaching in Old Bar, New South Wales as they battle to control the blazes

Battle: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales as more than 100 blazes ravage the eastern states

Battle: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales as more than 100 blazes ravage the eastern states

Battle: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales as more than 100 blazes ravage the eastern states

Smoldering: Fire burns on Bolivia Hill near Glen Innes on Sunday. Firefighters are struggling to contain blazes across the east

Smoldering: Fire burns on Bolivia Hill near Glen Innes on Sunday. Firefighters are struggling to contain blazes across the east

Smoldering: Fire burns on Bolivia Hill near Glen Innes on Sunday. Firefighters are struggling to contain blazes across the east

Nervous wait: Wytaliba resident Storm Sparks holds her son Zeke Bacon as she waits to get back to her house at a roadblock near Glen Innes on Monday

Nervous wait: Wytaliba resident Storm Sparks holds her son Zeke Bacon as she waits to get back to her house at a roadblock near Glen Innes on Monday

Nervous wait: Wytaliba resident Storm Sparks holds her son Zeke Bacon as she waits to get back to her house at a roadblock near Glen Innes on Monday

‘It wasn’t a bushfire, it was a firestorm’: Residents tell of horror as homes are destroyed 

Residents thought they were going to die huddled in their small NSW community’s fire station during an ‘apocalyptic’ bushfire that sounded like a freight train and rained down embers and soot.

The Northern Tablelands village of Torrington, population 81, lost a dozen homes on Friday as the worst fire in living memory engulfed the town.

While some residents fled early on Friday, Linda Birch was among those to take refuge in the town’s metal fire station.

Smoke soon crept under the doors of the shed as embers bombarded the vents.

‘It wasn’t a bushfire, it was a firestorm,’ she told AAP.

‘The ferocity of this storm was that immense that we needed to put masks on within the shed as well.’

Ms Birch admitted she thought she was going to die, describing the situation as ‘apocalyptic’.

Residents are warned to prepare to evacuate early and head to town centres and other safe places on Monday. Pictured: Firefighters in Taree

Residents are warned to prepare to evacuate early and head to town centres and other safe places on Monday. Pictured: Firefighters in Taree

Residents are warned to prepare to evacuate early and head to town centres and other safe places on Monday. Pictured: Firefighters in Taree

Outside, the volunteer firefighters who were barely able to see a few feet ahead of themselves watered down the shed and hoped it survived.

‘The sound was like a freight train, we couldn’t hear ourselves, we couldn’t talk, we just reacted,’ Ms Birch said.

‘We weren’t sure if anyone survived outside. My husband and Leigh’s husband were outside.’

Jennette Styles said Victorian firefighters managed to save the community hall – ‘the hub of our village’ – but homes dating back to the early 20th century and their contents had been lost.

‘Our heritage, our history is just disappearing,’ she said.

‘It’s an amazing village because we have beautiful people here and we care about each other.

‘We pull together, but we need someone to come out and talk to these people who have lost houses.There are people who aren’t insured or don’t own the property or who have lost $85,000 sheds.’

The volunteer firefighters continued fighting the blaze over the weekend, saving Geoff Hilton’s home and shed just in time.

‘How close do you want it to be?’ he says, looking at scorched earth forming a ring around his shed.

Torrington RFS captain Greg Kneipp and his deputy, his dad Bob, have been battling the blaze since it began two weeks ago, with a few days rest in between.

They were thankful for the support of out-of-town and interstate crews, aerial water bombing and those carting water to the station to fill the trucks.

‘This would be the worst fire and I’m 47 years in the RFS. This would be it by far and only because of the dry conditions is it so bad,’ Bob Kneipp said.

He said the camaraderie of the fire crew was one of the reasons he stayed in the RFS but has noticed young people are less likely to sign up.

‘We’re a big happy family,’ he said.

‘Even when the strike teams come in … within a couple of days, we know every one of them.’

NSW on Monday declared a state of emergency for seven days as bushfires continued to rage across the state. 

A map issued by the Rural Fire Service warns of a catastrophic danger – the highest level – to the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter regions.

It’s the first time a catastrophic fire danger has been declared for Sydney since new fire ratings were introduced in 2009.

‘High temperatures, strong winds and low humidity are forecast, making conditions dangerous,’ NSW Rural Fire Service warned on social media. 

‘Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger. Homes are not designed to withstand a fire under these conditions.

‘If a fire starts and takes hold during catastrophic fire danger conditions, lives and homes will be at risk.’  

Residents are warned to prepare to evacuate early and head to town centres and other safe places on Monday and not wait until the last moment on Tuesday. 

A catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney on Tuesday in the wake of the bushfires that have devastated the Taree region on the NSW north coast in recent days

A catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney on Tuesday in the wake of the bushfires that have devastated the Taree region on the NSW north coast in recent days

A catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney on Tuesday in the wake of the bushfires that have devastated the Taree region on the NSW north coast in recent days

Devastation: Scott Morrison comforts 85-year-old Owen Whalan in Koorainghat after he lost his home in a devastating blaze

Devastation: Scott Morrison comforts 85-year-old Owen Whalan in Koorainghat after he lost his home in a devastating blaze

Devastation: Scott Morrison comforts 85-year-old Owen Whalan in Koorainghat after he lost his home in a devastating blaze

A map of devastating heat: The dark red regions are where temperatures will soar above 30C on Tuesday

A map of devastating heat: The dark red regions are where temperatures will soar above 30C on Tuesday

A map of devastating heat: The dark red regions are where temperatures will soar above 30C on Tuesday

Unhealthy: As fires burned in Queensland, air pollution in Brisbane reached 'very unhealthy' levels, according to the Air Quality Index Visual Map. The purple areas are the worst affected. The air quality there is worse than the most polluted city in the world, Delhi in India

Unhealthy: As fires burned in Queensland, air pollution in Brisbane reached 'very unhealthy' levels, according to the Air Quality Index Visual Map. The purple areas are the worst affected. The air quality there is worse than the most polluted city in the world, Delhi in India

Unhealthy: As fires burned in Queensland, air pollution in Brisbane reached ‘very unhealthy’ levels, according to the Air Quality Index Visual Map. The purple areas are the worst affected. The air quality there is worse than the most polluted city in the world, Delhi in India

‘For your survival, leaving early is the only option,’ the NSW RFS website states.

‘Leave bushfire prone areas the night before or early in the day – do not just wait and see what happens.

‘Start making arrangements now.If you are unable to leave, identify a safe location which may be nearby.’

While NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described the conditions forecast for Tuesday as ‘dire’, the RFS described the threat of lives and homes being lost as ‘very real.’

‘We’ve got big population centres covered by that catastrophic fire danger – but also up on the north coast where we’ve simply got a lot of fires burning at the moment, those fires have got a real potential to run and impact on lives and properties,’ spokesman Anthony Clark told the ABC.

It's the first time a catastrophic fire warning  has been declared for the greater Sydney region

It's the first time a catastrophic fire warning  has been declared for the greater Sydney region

It’s the first time a catastrophic fire warning  has been declared for the greater Sydney region

It's been a horror few days in the state's north, where raging bushfires have claimed three lives and destroyed at least 160 homes. Pictured are the bushfires near Glen Innes on Sunday

It's been a horror few days in the state's north, where raging bushfires have claimed three lives and destroyed at least 160 homes. Pictured are the bushfires near Glen Innes on Sunday

It’s been a horror few days in the state’s north, where raging bushfires have claimed three lives and destroyed at least 160 homes. Pictured are the bushfires near Glen Innes on Sunday

Large areas of the state are also predicted to see ‘severe and extreme fire danger.’ 

‘This includes in the north coast and northern NSW areas, where there is a large number of fires already burning. These fires will not be contained in time and will threaten lives and properties,’ the RFS warned.

A statewide total fire ban has been declared for Monday and Tuesday. 

‘We are ramping up for probably another 50 trucks full of crews to be deployed into NSWon Monday night ahead of conditions on Tuesday, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters

‘We have seen the gravity of the situation unfold… What we can expect is those sorts of conditions to prevail across a much broader geographic area as we head into Tuesday.’  

Moisture levels of trees and shrubs around Sydney are lower than during the Black Christmas fires of 2001, according to Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment fire researcher Rachael Nolan.

‘We already knew it was going to be bad’ even before Tuesday’s declaration of ‘catastrophic’ fire dangers for the Sydney and Newcastle regions, Dr Nolan told the Sydney Morning Herald

‘We’re seeing many reports of entire hill slopes of trees dying.’

‘What this means is that there’s lots of dead leaves on the trees and sitting on the surface of shrubs and on the ground. These dead leaves make the vegetation as a whole very dry, and therefore highly flammable.’

NSW RFS has described the potential threat of more lives and homes being lost on Tuesday as 'very real.' Pictured are firefighting efforts in Old Bar on the NSW mid north coast

NSW RFS has described the potential threat of more lives and homes being lost on Tuesday as 'very real.' Pictured are firefighting efforts in Old Bar on the NSW mid north coast

NSW RFS has described the potential threat of more lives and homes being lost on Tuesday as ‘very real.’ Pictured are firefighting efforts in Old Bar on the NSW mid north coast

More than 60 bush fires continued to burn across the state on Sunday night as conditions eased, with all of the blazes at ‘advice’ and ‘watch and act’ alert levels.

Just under half are still not under control.

‘We’re simply not going to contain many of those fires before the bad conditions do hit on Tuesday,’ Mr Clark told ABC. 

Schools in identified high risk areas will be closed and the RFS advises those in the areas of catastrophic fire danger to avoid bushfire-prone areas.

More than 40 schools in NSW will also be closed on Monday due to the impact of the fires in the state’s north.

Parents, carers and staff should not put themselves at risk by travelling if in doubt about whether their school will be open, the department said.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said students sitting their HSC should contact their school if unsure if exams will occur, or if it is unsafe for them to get to an examination venue.

‘Students unable to attend an examination due to the bushfires will not be disadvantaged,’ she said in a statement. 

Taken too soon: The victims of the killer bushfires 

Lost to fire: Vivian Chaplain, 69, a grandmother of six

Lost to fire: Vivian Chaplain, 69, a grandmother of six

Lost to fire: Vivian Chaplain, 69, a grandmother of six

Julie Fletcher, 63: The dairy cattle farmer’s body was found in the burnt out remains of her Johns River home near Taree on Saturday afternoon.

She had her car packed with possessions, ready to evacuate but didn’t make it out in time. 

Vivian Chaplain, 69: The Grandmother of six also died while trying to save her Wytaliba property more than 400 kilometres away near Glen Innes.

George Nole, age unknown: His body was found in a burnt-out car in Wytaliba on Saturday morning. 

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Hong Kong police officer shoots masked protester point blank in shocking encounter

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A Hong Kong police officer shot a masked protester at point blank range in a shocking skirmish broadcast on Facebook Live on Monday morning.

The outbreak of violence happened at a blockaded junction in Sai Wan Ho during rush hour as a police officer attempted to arrest a masked man during a wild scuffle in the city’s 24th straight weekend of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Footage showed the policeman drawing his sidearm as a second man moved towards the officer in an attempt to liberate his comrade.

The protester appeared to take a swipe at the officer’s pistol and just moments later he opened fire, hitting the masked demonstrator in the torso.

As shrieks pierced the air, other demonstrators rushed at the officer who quickly fired another two rounds.

The masked demonstrator he had originally tried to collar broke free in the struggle but another man went to ground as the shots were fired. 

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp and his eyes wide open as officers moved him around and tried to tie his hands.

The second man was conscious and talking.

A Hong Kong police officer (pictured opening fire) shot at masked protesters on Monday morning - hitting at least one in the torso - during clashes broadcast live on Facebook

A Hong Kong police officer (pictured opening fire) shot at masked protesters on Monday morning - hitting at least one in the torso - during clashes broadcast live on Facebook

A Hong Kong police officer (pictured opening fire) shot at masked protesters on Monday morning – hitting at least one in the torso – during clashes broadcast live on Facebook

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man (face blurred) had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp as officers moved him around and apparently tried to tie his hands, while the second man was conscious and talking

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man (face blurred) had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp as officers moved him around and apparently tried to tie his hands, while the second man was conscious and talking

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man (face blurred) had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp as officers moved him around and apparently tried to tie his hands, while the second man was conscious and talking

Police officers detaining the two protesters in the aftermath, the man who was shot in the torso appeared to be unconscious

Police officers detaining the two protesters in the aftermath, the man who was shot in the torso appeared to be unconscious

Police officers detaining the two protesters in the aftermath, the man who was shot in the torso appeared to be unconscious

The demonstrator is bent double after being shot as the police officer continues to scuffle with the policeman, his hand over his face

The demonstrator is bent double after being shot as the police officer continues to scuffle with the policeman, his hand over his face

The demonstrator is bent double after being shot as the police officer continues to scuffle with the policeman, his hand over his face

The police officer fires two more rounds, the man in the white hooded jumper has broken free (centre), another man falls to the ground (left), while the man shot in the midriff appears to be in agony on the road

The police officer fires two more rounds, the man in the white hooded jumper has broken free (centre), another man falls to the ground (left), while the man shot in the midriff appears to be in agony on the road

The police officer fires two more rounds, the man in the white hooded jumper has broken free (centre), another man falls to the ground (left), while the man shot in the midriff appears to be in agony on the road

The officer first gets hold of a masked man in a white hooded top, this man later escapes but not before the policeman shoots one of his comrades who attempts to liberate him

The officer first gets hold of a masked man in a white hooded top, this man later escapes but not before the policeman shoots one of his comrades who attempts to liberate him

The officer first gets hold of a masked man in a white hooded top, this man later escapes but not before the policeman shoots one of his comrades who attempts to liberate him

The black-clad masked man who will, within a split second be shot in the torso, rushes towards the police officer as he tries to free the man he is detaining

The black-clad masked man who will, within a split second be shot in the torso, rushes towards the police officer as he tries to free the man he is detaining

The black-clad masked man who will, within a split second be shot in the torso, rushes towards the police officer as he tries to free the man he is detaining

Further footage on social media showed a police motorbike attempting to ram black-clad protesters in a running battle through the streets.

Other officers chased them off with batons while the motorbike sped dangerously towards the demonstrators, appearing to be totally out of control. 

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP that live rounds were fired at more than one protester in Sai Wan Ho and that a statement would be issued.

Police said in a statement radical protesters had set up barricades at multiple locations across the city and warned the demonstrators to ‘stop their illegal acts immediately’.

The police officers can be seen detaining the men on the ground, it is not clear from the footage whether the conscious man had been shot

The police officers can be seen detaining the men on the ground, it is not clear from the footage whether the conscious man had been shot

The police officers can be seen detaining the men on the ground, it is not clear from the footage whether the conscious man had been shot

They did not comment immediately on the apparent shooting.

Services on some train and subway lines were disrupted early on Monday, with riot police deployed near stations and shopping malls. Many universities cancelled classes on Monday and there were long traffic jams in some areas.

Activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls across Hong Kong’s New Territories and Kowloon peninsula on Sunday during a 24th straight weekend of anti-government unrest. 

Tensions have soared in recent days following the death on Friday of a 22-year-old student who succumbed to injuries sustained from a fall in the vicinity of a police clearance operation the weekend before. 

Protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they call for a general strike, in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they call for a general strike, in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they call for a general strike, in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Police officers direct residents as pro-democracy protesters block major roads in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Police officers direct residents as pro-democracy protesters block major roads in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Police officers direct residents as pro-democracy protesters block major roads in Hong Kong on Monday morning

A traffic jam is seen as roads are blocked by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong

A traffic jam is seen as roads are blocked by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong

A traffic jam is seen as roads are blocked by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong

Protesters set up barricades to block a road in Wong Tai Sin on Monday

Protesters set up barricades to block a road in Wong Tai Sin on Monday

Protesters set up barricades to block a road in Wong Tai Sin on Monday

The city has seen four days of consecutive protests since the student’s death as well as tens of thousands attending mass vigils.

Using online messaging forums, activists had called for a general strike on Monday morning.

Flashmob protests sprung up in multiple districts during the morning commuter period, with small groups of masked protesters targeting subway stations and building barricades on road junctions.

Even before the shooting in Sai Wan Ho, tear gas had been fired in at least two other locations. 

A view of graffiti at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday

A view of graffiti at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday

A view of graffiti at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday

People react after a tear gas canister fired by police lands amongst them during a standoff with protesters and residents in the Tsuen Wan district of the New Territories in Hong Kong on Sunday night

People react after a tear gas canister fired by police lands amongst them during a standoff with protesters and residents in the Tsuen Wan district of the New Territories in Hong Kong on Sunday night

People react after a tear gas canister fired by police lands amongst them during a standoff with protesters and residents in the Tsuen Wan district of the New Territories in Hong Kong on Sunday night

Monday’s shooting is the third time protesters have been shot with live rounds by police. 

On 1 October a student was struck in the chest as he and a group of activists attacked an officer with sticks and poles. He survived his wound and is being prosecuted.

Days later a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg when a policeman in plainclothes fired his gun after his car was attacked by a crowd. He also survived and was arrested. 

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