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Professor Robert Coe, from Durham University:  “This seems to underline the view that improvements in GCSEs and some other examinations have had more to do with grade inflation than real sustained improvements over time.”

Shamed by the short traders

The hunt is on for the speculators who sought to profit on the collapse in HBOS share price after spreading false rumours. But how can the regulator catch the guilty parties? By Nick Clark

Quilon, 41 Buckingham Gate, London SW1

Quilon is exceptional and disappointing in equal measure. Is that really good enough for Michelin attention?

Professor Alan Smithers: Lessons of the Soviet Union should have been learnt

Far too many children have been leaving primary schools unable to handle words and numbers properly, and the Blair government was determined to do something about it. It believed it had found the way. Set clear targets for schools, devise strategies for teaching literacy and numeracy, and hold everyone to account.

My Way: Quest Business Training's Judith Kark gives her tips for success in the workplace

'Don't say on your CV that you like to watch TV'

Eduation diary

Who is the real boss at the Department for Children, Schools and Families? Asked about the timetable for all secondary schools becoming trust or specialist schools or academies, the schools secretary Ed Balls said: "I shall have to ask Andrew." He was referring, of course, to Lord Adonis, who is a mere schools minister, but was always thought to be the power behind Blair's throne. Maybe nothing has changed.

Government loses faith in growth of religious schools

The Government has decided against backing more faith schools, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, Ed Balls, told MPs.

Alan Smithers: A new year of non-stop government initiatives

Another year, another education bill: this one compelling young people to remain in education or training until they turn 18. To pave the way, 17 diplomas for 14- to 18-year-olds are being introduced, the first five from September. Changes to curricula, qualifications, inspections and buildings are also due come into effect. Waiting in the wings is a 10-year children's concoction – not a plan – aimed at turning schools into centres for social services.

How do I look? Rankin Photographer, age 38

I'm never going to be six foot or have a completely flat stomach

Racing: Dunwoody: An unbridled passion for racing

Andrew Longmore bids a fond farewell to the retiring Irishman, whose brilliance set new standards

Director of arms firm sends legal bill to FO

THE FOREIGN Office is facing a claim for more than pounds 100,000 from Sandline International, the mercenary company at the centre of last year's "Arms to Africa" affair.

Letter: Messing up the riverside

THE VARIOUS angling associations are opposing the right-to-roam legislation on the grounds, among other things, of its potential damage to their environment. This is ironic in view of the damage they themselves cause by littering up canal and river banks with themselves and their impedimenta, killing waterfowl with their discarded weights and lines and the threat to estuarine life by the wholesale digging up of lugworms for bait.

WORDS: Traditional

DAVID BLUNKETT, echoing his master's voice, has told the schools they must spend more time teaching what one newspaper called "traditional moral values". Taken by itself, this is an unhelpful phrase. It's not so much the moral that's the problem; if you ask almost any teacher what he or she means by moral they will probably say they mean things like keeping out of trouble, standing by the pregnant girlfriend and observing as many as they can remember of the Ten Commandments. Not much disagreement there, provided that they keep the lesson simple. Nor need we linger over values, which, as I have said here before, is just a cant word for what grandfather would have called virtues.

Before the week is out...See this

Hip photographer, film director and publisher Rankin is about to challenge Nineties lad culture with a new exhibition of nude photographs. Although the subjects are naked there is no hint of exploitation in this collection of 100 pictures. Celebrities Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss pose alongside unknown models who answered a series of classified adverts. Rankin's not known for sticking to the traditional and the clever twist to this exhibition is a videotaped interview with each model talking about how they feel about their bodies and nudity.

Books: In pursuit of painted ladies

Robin Blake grew up with a `Van Dyck' which led him to write the painter's Life
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L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
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Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
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One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
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Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect