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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.”

Flipping outrage! Scandal of second homes is swept under carpet

Reforms of MPs' expenses will exclude one of the most serious and common abuses of the whole system

Michael Jackson: This Is It, Kenny Ortega, 112 mins, (PG)<br/>Fleetwood Mac, MEN Arena, Manchester

The biggest musical event this week isn't a concert at all, but it's coming to a popcorn pit near you. By the time I'm writing this and you're reading it, Michael Jackson was meant to have performed 27 dates of his This Is It farewell show at the O2 in London, with a further 23 to follow in the spring.

Fleetwood Mac, SECC, Glasgow

To those familiar with their patchwork history, the fact that this current incarnation of Fleetwood Mac has remained stable for a little over a decade is something approaching a miracle.

Bercow: pay back your expenses now

Speaker says that he will not be a 'shop steward' for MPs

Parents cleared to set up mutual child care

Parents who arrange to look after each other’s children no longer need to worry about breaking the law, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls ruled today.

Ofsted has 'lost the plot' over childminding case

Ofsted has “lost the plot” by telling two police officers they broke the law by caring for each other’s children, it was claimed today.

English Heritage to sell off historic house at &#163;5m loss

Falling property prices force the taxpayer to foot the bill for a multimillion-pound 'heritage deficit'

Terence Blacker: All this fuss over a misdirected joke

Universities should be where jokes can be made without misinterpretation

Senior academic calls female students 'a perk of the job'

Female students are a "perk" of the job for male university lecturers, a senior academic has suggested.

Terence Blacker: When politics takes the fun out of comedy

As the political parties square up to one another during conference season, we can expect the usual sugaring of carefully scripted political jokes among the policy statements. The Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather set the tone this week with a rather odd comic routine at the expense of Mark Oaten, the MP whose political career was ended after stories involving a rent boy. To understand the punchline, one apparently had to know the full unpleasant gossip about the affair.

Study in hostilities: A novel MA is pulling in the students by combining intellectual learning with fine dining and prominent speakers

If you want to take a degree which combines tales of derring-do, fine dining and meeting some of the country's most distinguished generals and academics, the University of Buckingham has the one for you. This month sees the private university launch an MA in military history. It is a canny move that taps into the huge and growing interest in a once unfashionable subject and into a restless willingness to pay to pursue intellectual interests.

UKIP leader Farage to stand down

Nigel Farage is to step down as leader of the UK Independence Party, it was revealed today.

Farage to stand against speaker Bercow

Ukip leader Nigel Farage is to stand against Commons Speaker John Bercow at the next election, the party said today.

Speaker orders grace-and-favour flat facelift

John Bercow has ordered &pound;20,000 worth of refurbishments for his rent-free residence, it was revealed today.
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future