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Page last updated at 07:12 GMT, Saturday, 24 March 2012
Today: Saturday 24th March

A review of pre-school services ordered by the government has raised concerns about the literacy and numeracy skills of childminders and nursery workers. A Russian banker remains critically ill in hospital in London after being shot outside his home. And also on the programme, offenders and victims try to come to terms with the effects of violent crime, in a radio broadcast heard in prisons across Britain.

We are no longer providing clips of every part of the programme but you will be able to listen via the BBC iPlayer .

Paper review.

A review commissioned by the government has raised concerns about the literacy and numeracy skills of some people who work with pre-school children in England. Political correspondent Peter Henley has the details.


The Unification Church, also known as the Moonies, are contemplating life after Moon, the messianic figure who founded the church almost sixty years ago in South Korea, handed over spiritual leadership of the church to his younger son a few years ago. As young Britons take part today in the latest of the Unificationists' mass wedding ceremonies in Korea, there are signs of a more fundamental shift in the church towards a younger generation. Religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott reports.


In his Budget statement on Wednesday, the Chancellor George Osborne alluded to the necessity of further cuts to the welfare budget in the next spending review if other government spending was to be protected. Gemma Tetlow, programme director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies' work on pensions, saving and public finances, examines how much and where this money will come from.


Sightings of bluebells have doubled since last year, according to the Woodland Trust, as it tracks the first appearance of the flowers across the country this Spring. The trust's spokesman Paul Hetherington, outlines what they have found so far.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

Chinese state media is reporting that 3,300 members of the security service have been called to Beijing for "ideological re-training" which follows last week's surprise sacking of an influential Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, widely seen by China watchers as a sign of the fierce power struggle taking place within the party's hierarchy. Jonathan Fenby, author of the forthcoming book Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How It Got There and Where It Is Heading, analyses the significance of this.

The paper review.


These are tough times for the printed press in Britain after years of circulation decline, falling advertising revenues, the bombshell of phone hacking and the current inquiry into reporting ethics. But there has been some encouraging news for the UK's newspaper industry at least as far as their digital future is concerned as earlier this year the Daily Mail's website became the world's most popular online newspaper, according to one measure, beating the prestigious New York Times in those rankings for the third month running. The Today programme's Tom Bateman has been trying to find out why. Read more here.

Thought for the Day with Catherine Pepinster, the editor of The Tablet.


The stamp duty holiday for first-time home-buyers ends today with everyone buying a property worth between a £125,000 and £250,000 now having to pay stamp duty of 1% of the purchase price. We hear from one woman struggling to get on the property ladder while Juliet Gardiner, British historian and a commentator on social history, describes the historic significance of owning a home and Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, argues that the housing shortage is undermining social cohesion.


A major review for the Department for Education into childcare provision has found that nursery staff and childminders are being allowed to work at pre-school groups without demonstrating even "basic literacy or numeracy skills". Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, the national charity for children and families, and Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss, who has called for deregulation of childcare services, analyse what it says about the childcare system.

Dame Liz Forgan, chairwoman of Arts Council England, has been asked by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to step down when her term ends in Jan 2013. Arts editor Will Gompertz reports.


The first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church is due to attend a screening later of a documentary about his life Love Free or Die at the BFI Southbank London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival which won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, reflects on the relationship between the church and homosexuality.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.


There was a remarkable example of restorative justice on a programme that went out on National Prison Radio

last night, featuring Ray and Violet Donovan, a couple from Surrey, talking about the murder of their son by a gang of youths in the street. In the programme they talked to a group of violent criminals who had been involved in similar crimes. Phil Maguire, chief executive of the Prison Radio Association which produced the programme, describes the effect the broadcast had. This item contains descriptions which some people may find disturbing.

Paper review.

A former Russian banker, German Gorbuntsov, is in a critical condition after being shot several times by a man armed with a sub-machine gun in East London. Aleksander Nekrassov, Russian journalist and former Kremlin adviser, gives the background to the case.


Many people know about the role of the double agent Garbo in deceiving the Germans over the location of the D-Day landings but a new book has uncovered evidence that the success of D-Day might have actually hung on the ability of one double agent, dubbed Artist, to hold out under torture by his Nazi captors in Berlin. Ben Macintyre, author of Double Cross, outlines what he discovered and historian Antony Beevor, talks about the other tactics the allies used to divert German attention.

Where did this week's Budget announcement leave Chancellor George Osborne, and his government? Matthew d'Ancona, columnist on the Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph, and Rachel Sylvester of the Times, analyse the chancellor's performance.

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