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.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project