News Education Secretary Michael Gove

Ministers must try harder, declares organisation

Economy casts long shadow over local elections

Three weeks from today, Gordon Brown will face his first electoral test as Labour leader and the backdrop could hardly be more gloomy as the economic clouds darken.

National Youth Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

The rehearsals in Nottingham are over, and for a taste of orchestral life the young musicians of the National Youth Orchestra are hitting the road from Gateshead to London. In celebration of its 60th birthday, the NYO commissioned a work from one of its alumni to open the spring programme. Threads for Orchestra is by Mark Simpson, who played principal clarinet and, remarkably, won both the BBC Young Musician of the Year and the Guardian/BBC Proms Young Composers award. After a strident brass fanfare, Simpson weaves a melody in the violins through the blank canvas of the orchestra. Chinese opera gongs and steel drums give it a weird colouring, as strands of the melody are pulled between sections in a kind of furious cross-stitching that gathers momentum towards a sudden, squealing stop. Just as Simpson, at 19, can "feel something emerging" so could the audience for, despite the piece being a fraction long, it is impressively well-structured.

Osborne: Tax cuts might be difficult

Shadow chancellor George Osborne acknowledged today that a Conservative government might find it difficult to cut taxes if it wins power at the next general election.

Tories to offer extra leave for new fathers

David Cameron has tried to outflank Labour by proposing that fathers be allowed more paid leave to look after babies if mothers want to return to work.

Short sellers take a big hit as Liberty merger talks revealed

Shares in Liberty International soared almost 10 per cent yesterday, after talks were revealed that could lead to the group merging with a major rival to create the largest shopping mall owner in the world.

Gascoigne: Turbulent life of football genius

Paul Gascoigne has featured almost as much on the front pages of newspapers for his rollercoaster private life as he has on the back pages for his sporting prowess.

Gascoigne sectioned after hotel 'incident'

Former England soccer star Paul Gascoigne has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, sources said today. He was detained after Northumbria Police were called last night to a hotel in Gateshead.

You write the reviews: Northern Sinfonia with H K Gruber, The Sage, Gateshead

An evening with H K Gruber is unlike most concerts. Gruber, whose musical career began in the Vienna Boys Choir, has moved a long way since then, but he remains steeped in a Germanic heritage encompassing Weimar Republic cabaret, nasty tales and songs to scare children, and the fierce energy of the great classical conductors. He composes, conducts, sings and plays a variety of odd and customised instruments, including an artfully prepared plastic penny whistle and toy saxophone.

The king's new court: Norman Foster is taking on the home of America's national collection

The poet Walt Whitman described the former United States Patent Building – the scene of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural ball – as "the noblest of Washington buildings". So when Norman Foster set about renovating its courtyard – it is now the Smithsonian Institute and houses the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery – he was determined to preserve the historical integrity of the building, while bringing the space back to life.

One in five hospital trusts found to be putting mothers and babies at risk

London is the worst place in the country to have a baby, according to the first review of maternity units in England.

Soaring commodity prices drive mining and power stocks to biggest FTSE gains

As the year draws to a close, the number of gainers in the FTSE100 far outstrips the losers

US pressured Blair into arms bribery inquiry

A bribery investigation threatening the future of 50,000 British jobs followed heavy pressure on Tony Blair from George Bush's administration, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

20 things everyone needs to know

Ever felt you were slightly lacking in the life skills department? Let's face it, there's so much to master - and so little time in which to do it. But worry no more. Expert help is at hand. From building a fire to asking for a rise, this guide means you'll never be at a loss again

Westwood enlists Big Sam to rediscover form

Desperate golfers will resort to all sorts of remedies to rediscover their game; those such as Paul McGinley join in events such as this Wales Open, while others such as Lee Westwood simply join Bolton Wanderers.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
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A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
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Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
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Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week