School Direct has received 4,000 fewer applications for secondary places this year compared to last year – a 17 per cent fall.
Today's Ucas statistics represent a "significant decline" and reveal the school-based teacher training programme is "in trouble", according to teacher recruitment expert Professor John Howson.
By contrast, applications for places on university-based secondary courses have actually increased – from nearly 25,000 last year to 25,260 this year, as have applications to SCITTs.
The figures show that secondary applications to the main School Direct programme have dropped by 16,800 in 2016 to 14,500 this year.
And secondary applications to the salaried School Direct scheme have fallen from 6,530 to 4,750.