6 April 2013

Googling lessons Delegates at the National Union of Teachers conference complained about Michael Gove’s ‘pub quiz’ curriculum and suggested that children didn’t need to learn facts any more because they… Read more

30 March 2013

Economic migrants David Cameron announced that the government would make it harder for migrants to claim benefits, NHS treatment and social housing. Do migrants make a positive contribution to the… Read more

23 March 2013

Big ask Birmingham Council asked residents, in a survey on wheelie bins, whether they were gay or bisexual. Some more nosey questions asked by councils: — Is your gender identity… Read more

16 March 2013

Minority report The Queen signed a new Commonwealth charter denouncing ‘discrimination of all kinds’, leading campaigners to suggest that she was supporting gay marriage. Peter Tatchell asserted that 6 per… Read more

2 March 2013

Political joke The Five Star Movement, led by comedian Beppe Grillo, won 26% of the vote in the Italian general election. Comedian John O’Farrell competed as Labour’s candidate in the… Read more

23 February 2013

Dyeing and dying A teacher in Harrow complained to his MP that he had been banned from marking pupils’ work in red ink in case it upset them. Some origins… Read more

16 February 2013

Takes all sports The government is to introduce a new strategy for sport in schools. To what educational ends can sport be used? — ‘Using Sport to Tackle Youth Crime’… Read more

2 February 2013

A desert mystery Insurgents were reported to have burned tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu as French troops surrounded the city. Timbuktu has long been a byword for… Read more

26 January 2013

Four sworn Barack Obama achieved a remarkable feat last week: he managed to take the oath of office for a fourth time. Under the 22nd Amendment to the US constitution,… Read more

19 January 2013

Equine dining Horsemeat was found in hamburgers sold by Tesco, among others. Why did eating horses become a taboo? — In the 8th century Pope Gregory III instructed St Boniface,… Read more

12 January 2013

Welfare state The government was attacked for wanting to increase benefits by less than inflation. How have benefits changed in real terms since they were introduced? — Unemployment benefit began… Read more

5 January 2013

The Seacole empire Education Secretary Michael Gove says he wants to rewrite the national curriculum in history to concentrate on figures such as Cromwell and Churchill instead of Mary Seacole.… Read more

29 December 2012

Counting the years 2013 might look an uninteresting number for a year but it is in fact a mathematical rarity: a year whose digits, when rearranged, can form a simple… Read more

15 December 2012

Double trouble The Duchess of Cambridge’s acute morning sickness was said to be associated with twins, raising the prospect of an awkward question of succession, especially if twins were to… Read more

8 December 2012

Distilling a philosophy The manager of Fitzpatrick’s in Rawtenstall, the last surviving temperance bar in Lancashire, has pleaded guilty to drink-driving. His embarrassing predicament would have been understood by the… Read more

1 December 2012

Local elections in Catalonia, which could lead to an independence referendum, put the region in a race with Scotland to be the world’s next new nation. Some other contenders: NEW… Read more

24 November 2012

Stage and screen Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has notched up its 60th anniversary and its 25,000th performance, by far the longest run of a stage show. Yet for all… Read more

17 November 2012

Brave new words ‘Omnishambles’ was declared the Oxford English Dictionary’s ‘word of the year’, but will not for the moment be added to the dictionary itself. Here is a selection… Read more

27 October 2012

Electric dreams Manganese Bronze, the manufacturer of the most familiar model of London taxi, went into administration, putting a question mark over the black London cab. — Although they enjoy the status… Read more

13 October 2012

Matters of record German skydiver Felix Baumgartner attempted to become the first man to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft when he dropped from a balloon at 120,000 feet over Mexico, reaching… Read more

29 September 2012

Proud to be plebs Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell denied calling policemen in Downing Street ‘plebs’. The term has its origins in ancient Rome but was also used as a badge… Read more

22 September 2012

Turning Bac Michael Gove has called his replacement for GCSE the ‘English Baccalaureate’. But the Baccalaureate’s origins are at odds with some of Mr Gove’s views on education. — The… Read more

15 September 2012

The start of the tape Business secretary Vince Cable announced another crackdown on red tape. But where did red tape come from? It seems to have been a product of… Read more

1 September 2012

One-legged wonder The Paralympic Games began in 1960 and can trace its origins to the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, held for ex-servicemen at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1948. Before that,… Read more

11 August 2012

Family fortunes Louise Mensch became the latest MP to resign in order to spend more time with her family. The phrase has become something of a euphemism over the years… Read more