Figures released this week show that teacher training places at outstanding providers are to be cut 10.6 per cent, while the number of in-school training places has soared.
Department for Education (DfE) figures show that the number of places on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses during 2015/16 dropped almost 3,000 at the best-performing institutions. No places were allocated to institutions rated as less than good.
For the past two years, outstanding institutions have been protected from any cut, but the DfE said that the reduction was a result of outstanding institutions dropping to a “good” rating this year.
The figures also confirm the government’s continued commitment to School Direct, a school-led training programme, in which participants are recruited by and work in a school throughout their training. The number of places for this programme rose 15 per cent.
While School Direct places increased, only 74.5 per cent of places requested by teacher training institutions were granted, down 5.6 percentage points on the previous year.
The overall number of places on university courses, however, remains almost the same, with just a 0.3 per cent increase.
Professor John Howson, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, has raised concerns that School Direct places were undersubscribed last year, whereas many university providers were substantially oversubscribed.
He also raised the prospect of the cut in places impacting elite universities: “It looks as if subjects that Russell Group universities traditionally offer, such as training in English, history, maths, and languages, have taken the biggest hit.
“Some of those universities will say they will not be able to continue those courses as they will no longer be financially viable.”
The DfE figures estimated an increased demand for secondary teachers in the coming year. Last year 14,000 teachers were needed; this year that figure reaches 18,000.
However, Professor Howson points out that last year about 10 per cent of training places were not taken.
“If they have failed to fill those places this year in secondary, how are they going to fill them next year?”
The DfE is optimistic about the growth of School Direct. A spokesperson said: “The School Direct programme is a key part of our plan for education.
It is proving hugely popular with schools and teachers with a record numbers of requests – more than 23,000, up a third in one year.
“It not only gives headteachers more influence and control over the way teachers are trained and recruited, but it is also helping to drive up standards across the profession.
“Universities will continue to play an important role in the delivery of ITT, working closely with schools to shape and deliver training and continuous professional development that more closely matches the needs of the school, its pupils and teachers.”