CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a fast-track teacher training course should be delayed by a year because of concerns over quality, ministers have been warned.

Documents released under freedom of information legislation show teacher training body Teach First told the Scottish Government in May the current timescale was a risk to quality.

The warning came after the Scottish Government announced a new fast-track teacher training course targeted at vacancies in rural schools and key subjects such as science, technology and maths.

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The Scottish Government plans to issue the tender later this month with pilots up and running for 2018.

However, Teach First, which currently operates in England and Wales, proposed an alternative which would have halted the tendering process and set up a partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver a pilot in 2019.

A letter from James Westwood, executive director of Teach First, to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, dated 9th May, states: “I am writing to ask whether you might consider an alternative arrangement to this process and consider the timing of such a roll-out, in order to deliver a programme that is more likely to meet your policy objectives.

“We appreciate there are many reasons for unavoidable delay, but our view is that we should now be aiming towards a programme which trains recruits in summer 2019, starting teaching in schools in August 2019.

“In our view this is necessary to ensure any organisation can deliver on your clear vision of a high quality, innovative new route into the profession in Scotland.”

The letter says the extra time was required to ensure the programme could attract “additional high calibre leaders” rather than duplicate existing provision.

Mr Westwood added: “We are very keen to work with your Government to deliver this programme, but are concerned about our ability to bid or deliver if the process is for a tender issued in the coming months with a programme starting in 2018.

“In the instances where a sufficient timeline has not been available in other countries we have taken the decision not to bid because we did not feel we could guarantee quality.

“Where rushed timelines have occurred the outcomes have been below the standards expected. We are concerned this scenario may now be approaching.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said both the tone and content of the letter was “deeply worrying”.

He said: “It seems to suggest a negotiation and an ongoing relationship between the Scottish Government and Teach First rather than an open tendering process.”

Reuben Moore, Teach First director of leadership, said the organisation now believed the tender process gave adequate time.

He said: “We know it’s crucial that time is taken to develop any new teacher education model.

“We’re therefore pleased the recently announced tender process will give the time to first focus on developing an excellent new route into teaching.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are currently finalising the tender specification for this new route into teaching and will shortly begin accepting bids for the contract.

“We anticipate a number of parties will be interested in bringing forward proposals.

“Our timescale for pilots to begin no later than August 2018 is entirely realistic and remains unchanged.”