TOO often one hears comments like ''I hated maths in school'' or ''I was rubbish at maths'' expressed almost proudly. Somehow it’s okay for people to chuckle about not being good at maths. Yet, if I said “I never learned to read”, they’d say I was an illiterate dolt.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak clearly understands the power and value of mathematics to society and the economy. In March 2020 he pledged £7 million to provide every region in England with funding for a specialist maths school, the money being made available to open 11 such schools for 16-to-19-year-olds. Building on those earlier plans, the Government has now announced a £6 million National Academy for Maths that will push for numeracy to be seen as important as reading.

Scotland produced one of the greatest mathematical physicists of all time, James Clerk Maxwell.

Let us hope that our new First Minister is also as fanatical about all things mathematical.

Doug Clark, Currie.

Pupils must learn hard work

BILL Brown’s claim (Letters, May 8) that hard work and perseverance in school learning are an "outdated myth" sounds exactly like the sentiments of the illiterate teachers who produced school-leavers crippled by illiteracy in recent decades.

Teachers like that were especially detested by one of Scotland’s finest socialist writes and thinkers, William McIlvanney. He wrote sorrowfully of so-called teachers "confirming the illiteracy" of the young.

Learning is work and it only becomes fun with deep involvement and concentration.

Learning is discovery and joyous. It takes effort to get there.

Young people who love their work and immerse themselves in it are not wage slaves or anyone’s slaves. Young people who miss that mark are serfs and prisoners of futility.

The Khmer Rouge and their crusade of murder against literacy was thought to be a thing of the past in a distant land. Wrong. Too many schoolteachers in Britain have hated attainment and call it divisive, because it’s unattainable for them. They wish learning to be shallow at most.

Mr Brown needs an experience of how poor parents and children in Africa value deep and thorough education so much that the children walk 10 and more miles to school every day with a handful of boiled rice in their satchel.

Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.

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Don't build over rail tracks

LAST month Màiri McAllan, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, started a chain of events by announcing that the interim net zero target could not be met. She had just recognised the reality. What has been achieved is mainly a result of exporting our heavy industry so its emissions are not counted in Britain.

Scotland's biggest source of emissions is transport and Ms McAllan also recognised, quite rightly, that the Westminster Government is mainly responsible for controls on transport emissions. What can Scotland do? Net zero cannot be achieved without a more comprehensive railway network. While railway construction is expensive it would be much cheaper if the trackbeds were not built over with housing.

Older readers may remember the Glasgow Herald in January 1983 publishing the sad photo of the last train to leave Kilmacolm. The rails were ripped up and the trackbed sold off for a nominal sum to a supposed environment group which had pre-arranged a lucrative housebuilding deal, blocking the track for ever. The old Strathclyde Passenger Transport stepped in and stopped it but time has gone by and recent reports suggest the Scottish Government has overruled the local council and is allowing housebuilding to block the route at Bridge of Weir. Our Cabinet Secretary should now step in and protect the trackbed so it can be reinstated as a railway and part of a modern, environmental transport system.

Perhaps also there should be a government warning to developers, house buyers and their solicitors that railways can reopen as well as close?

Ralph Barker, Crawford.

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Memories of the lodging houses

I NOTE with interest your report on Glasgow's Bellgrove Hotel (“Former hostel branded a Soviet gulag to be redeveloped in plans for 70 flats” The Herald, May 4).

My first job on leaving school was as a pools clerkess in Littlewoods Pools. The pools coupons I received for checking for winners were from the east end of Glasgow.

I was baffled as to why men who were rich enough to live in hotels (the Bellgrove and the Great Eastern Hotel in Duke Street) would be bothered with such a working-class pursuit. Well, I was young and naive. Older colleagues failed to disabuse me of this view.

Some years later, when working as a social work assistant in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, I was taken on a winter evening tour of Glasgow’s lodging houses for the single homeless. The majority were men, although there was one lodging house (hostel) for women. Conditions when I visited in 1979/1980 were grim, positively Dickensian. I could not believe that such conditions still prevailed and were accepted. These were council establishments after all.

The Herald: The Bellgrove HotelThe Bellgrove Hotel (Image: Newsquest)

Part of my job as an assistant was to find vacancies for homeless men being discharged from hospital. Almost without exception, men refused to be placed in either Bellgrove or the Great Eastern, as the conditions there were even worse than in council-managed lodging houses. They told me they would rather sleep on the streets.

During my time at the Royal I was told about the infamous “Penny Hing” at the Great Eastern. When the establishment was full, or if an individual could not pay for a cubicle with pallet overnight, he would be given the option of hanging over a rope strung between the walls for a penny. As a significant number of men were extremely inebriated during their attempts to find overnight shelter, they would accept. How, or if, they managed to remain “hinging” over the rope overnight escapes me still.

Not surprisingly I am delighted to learn that the Bellgrove is to be transformed into affordable homes. I am astonished though, that it took until 2021 to, acquire it from private owners and can only speculate why it took so long to eradicate the exploitation and appalling conditions that generations of unfortunate and vulnerable individuals had to endure.

Ann Ross-McCall, Glasgow.