Universities have already been told to stop recruiting trainee PE teachers for next year after reaching a newly-imposed cap level after just one month.
Under new rules school and university teacher training providers will be able to recruit as many trainees as they wish until a national limit is met.
The government push for more school-led provision– such as School Direct routes – means such providers have national minimum levels of recruitment to ensure “moderate growth” in the route.
Universities can then be “capped” so the minimum number of trainees through the school-led route can be reached, as has now happened in the case of PE.
Nationally, 999 PE trainees were said to be required for the next academic year of which 600 would be trained via School Direct. As of Friday, when recruitment was closed, 420 offers had been made with 305 coming from universities.
It is understood more than 2,500 applications have been made since recruitment began.
Concerns have been raised previously by the university sector about this new approach and its impact on universities.
The news comes days after initial teacher training statistics for this academic year (2015/16) showed that PE was in the top three most popular subjects for trainee secondary teachers. It met its recruitment target of 1,230.
It was only surpassed by English, history and primary school teachers.
An email was sent to higher education institutions (HEI) on Thursday evening saying: “All HEI recruitment to postgraduate [PE] courses must stop with immediate effect; no more offers to be made…
“Due to the very high volume of offers and acceptances within the last 24 hours we have been unable to provide you with 90 per cent and 95 per cent warnings and can confirm that HEIs have now recruited to the remainder places for PE.”
It added that existing offers will be honoured, but any offers made from today may result in recruitment controls, reduced future allocations or withdrawal of accreditation.
The email from the NCTL also suggested universities work with School Direct schools with any future interviews.
Katharine Vincent from the UCL Institute of Education said, while the institution does not offer PGCE PE, it anticipates this will affect other subjects soon.
She added: “We are concerned that the current approach to the distribution of places for teacher training programmes does not provide sufficient stability for prospective students or providers. In the absence of the kind of allocations system which existed in previous years, there is a great deal more uncertainty about how and where places will be made available.”
She said “places filled so quickly” that the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) was unable to issue warnings to universities when places reached more than 75 per cent capacity, and instead closed recruitment.
The NCTL had said it would provide warnings to providers at 75, 90 and 95 per cent capacity.
Ms Vincent added: “We now have a situation where hundreds of applicants to PE courses nationwide, who are waiting to be interviewed by universities, must switch to a SCITT or School Direct (SD) route if they want any hope of getting a place.
“It is a dangerous game – NCTL are gambling on SCITTs and SD being able to make up the shortfall which depends on a number of things including geography which don’t seem part of this plan. We know that prospective students value the PGCE and value the university element of their teacher training. The current approach removes this option for many of them, which cannot be good news.”
More than 12,600 people started school-led training this year, and increase from 11,300 the previous year. Universities are still the most popular route – 13,500 people began a postgraduate course this September.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are really pleased to see the continuing popularity of PE and to see that recruitment is off to a flying start.
“In response to feedback from the sector, we have introduced a new system for postgraduate ITT recruitment for the 2016/2017 academic year that gives more freedom to schools and universities to recruit the trainees they need.
“We have been clear from the outset that we will apply controls, where required and in certain subjects, to avoid over recruitment.”