AS you recently reported the Scottish Government has now put out to tender its controversial fast-track teacher training course ("Fast-track teacher training scheme targeting as few as 20 recruits", The Herald, October 5).

The English-based training organisation Teach First is expected to bid, but the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) is opposed to this approach.

The Scottish system of teacher education is a good one and is highly regarded in other countries, but has had difficulty attracting students because of the damage caused by education cuts over the last 10 years.

The Westminster Government has attempted to fill teacher vacancies since 2002 by using the Teach First graduate teacher programme.

The two-year training course, with a six-week condensed course in the summer, sees graduates paid as unqualified members of staff in year one and as a qualified teacher with a salary of £22,917 in year two.

Teach First is a registered charity, with the Prince of Wales as its patron, but it is not staffed by volunteers doing "good work".

Teach First accounts show it has a workforce of 521 full-time equivalent employees and that some £24m was spent on "key management personnel", 21 of whom earned more than £60,000, five earned more than £100,000, and the chief executive earns more than £160,000.

Teach First played a part in breaking the English teacher training system by focusing on teacher shortages in deprived areas at a time when the government of the day was desperate to find a quick solution.

Teach First appeared to be the answer by providing highly qualified graduates into teaching posts, with the support of big corporation "partners".

However, in reality Teach First allows public money to be channelled into a glorified recruitment agency with a charitable status.

The children who need the most experienced and best-trained teachers in reality get the most inexperienced.

The number of teachers who remain in the system after this form of introduction is difficult to find, but anecdotal comments from headteachers in London is that they don’t stay very long.

The Scottish Government needs to invest in its current teacher workforce with better conditions, significantly higher salaries and a rewarding and motivational career structure.

It is better to keep the teachers we have and entice back those who have left than to be constantly looking for quick fixes.

Seamus Searson,

General secretary, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association,

14 West End Place, Edinburgh.

YOUR report that the University of Strathclyde is to downgrade the teaching of Italian to just the first and second years of the degree programme is both shocking and saddening ("University says 'arrivederci' to joint honours degrees in Italian", The Herald, October 9, and Letters, October 12). With the UK in political confusion over its future place within Europe, the university's decision is both tragic and short-sighted, especially in Scotland where Italian culture has such a significant presence. I know I am not alone in hoping that the university's course of action really is "arrivederci" and not "addio".

Now firmly retired, I had the enormous privilege to teach and research Italian Studies at Strathclyde for more than 42 years. I witnessed the birth of Italian at Strathclyde in the mid-1960s with a handful of language diploma students and just nine beginners in Italian, through steady and continuing evolution to become a highly-regarded joint honours degree programme spanning the whole canon of Italian Studies.

Strathclyde Italian has a particularly high reputation in regard to Italian language teaching allied to a genuinely strong performance in the output of high-quality academic publications. Of special appeal has been the ability to study Italian to joint honours degree level in a range of subject combinations not commonly available in other universities. Examples include Italian and engineering, architecture, law, marketing, international business, psychology – as well as the more predictable combinations with other disciplines drawn from the arts and social sciences. Strathclyde graduates in Italian are to be found in all continents, especially in the world of commerce (so important for this country's future) and indeed in teaching Italian in universities across the globe.

To downgrade a highly-rated key discipline on grounds of cost alone is plain folly. I trust that the University of Strathclyde will have the wisdom to reconsider this course of action.

Andrew Wilkin,

29 Forest Place, Lenzie.