University and school based initial teacher training providers have been told they can take on as many trainees as they want from next year.
The free-for-all announced today by the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) comes in the wake of concerns about growing teacher shortages.
But universities are warning that the removal of limits on trainee numbers for each individual training providers could make the problem worse. They fear it will be detrimental to initial teacher training recruitment and could lead to courses being closed.
National allocations for the number of trainees for in each subject will remain. But universities and School Direct schools recruiting for September 2016 have been told they can take on as many trainees as they want until the national limit in each subject is met.
Charlie Taylor, NCTL chief executive said the change being made in response to frustrations from teacher training providers about the complicated allocations system.
There will be some controls set to ensure a mix of School Direct, SCITT (school centred initial teacher training) and university-led courses. The NCTL has also said it will ensure no individual providers expand beyond a certain level and it will act to prevent significant geographical variation.
But the removal of institutional limits has been condemned by bodies representing universities.
In a joint statement, Universities UK and Guild HE, said: “Within the fixed market that these changes introduce, there will be no guaranteed minimum intake level for university provider-led courses.
“This instability affects the viability of course delivery, reduces the capacity of universities to plan over the long-term and may impact on the ability of universities to support their partnership schools. The changes could, in certain instances, lead to universities withdrawing from specific subjects or from the ITT market altogether.”
James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said that the success of the plan would depend on whether there was the flexibility involved to shift applicants between universities and School Direct routes in order to maximise recruitment levels.
Earlier this month Teach First warned that schools are facing the worst recruitment crisis this century, as demand for its teachers has more than doubled compared to last year.
Pupil numbers are rising with official figures predicting that there will be 900,000 extra pupils in England’s schools by 2021, compared to 2010.
As well as the rise in pupil numbers, the improving economy which provides graduates with more options, and the introduction of a compulsory EBac which means more teachers will be needed in certain subjects, are adding to the crisis over teacher recruitment.
The introduction of School Direct, a school-led training system is failing to tackle the shortfall, as recruitment on School Direct routes as only 61 per cent of School Direct places were filled in 2014, compared to 90 per cent of university places.