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School Direct to train more teachers than university PGCEs from 2015

The number of training places on the government's School Direct scheme will overtake university PGCE places for the first time next year.

Figures released by the government show that there will be 17,609 places for School Direct trainees in 2015 and 15,490 higher education postgraduate places. This year there were 15,254 School Direct places and 16,342 higher education postgraduate places.

The total number of teacher training places has risen from 41,549 in 2014 to 43,516 in 2015.

Under School Direct, schools recruit trainees directly and link up with universities to provide out-of-classroom training. Trainees have an "expectation of employment" at their school at the end of their training.

But critics are concerned that the shift to School Direct may destabilise the teacher training system because universities cannot guarantee student numbers – and so funding – year on year.

On higher education routes, trainees are recruited by universities and undertake placements in schools. This makes universities less vulnerable to fluctuations in individual schools' requirements for trainee teachers.

School Direct was piloted in 2012 with 900 places as part of a government drive for schools to take a greater role in training new teachers. Since the scheme was introduced, both the Open University and Bath University have closed their PGCE courses, both of which were rated as outstanding.

There are now growing concerns that a teacher shortage is looming as School Direct fails to meet demand in certain subjects, such as physics.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "The government’s continuing acceleration towards school-based teacher training shows a wilful disregard for the growing teacher shortage crisis and evidence about what kind of teacher training works best.

“Expecting schools to lead initial teacher training places a huge burden on them. Schools have a key role to play in providing trainee teachers with teaching practise, but the priority for schools should be educating pupils and not educating trainee teachers.

“Good initial teacher education needs strong links between universities and schools, but these funding decisions may cause fatal damage to those links, at huge cost to the profession and to pupils.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The School Direct programme is a key part of our plan for education. It is proving hugely popular with schools and teachers with record numbers of requests – more than 23,000 – up by 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 teacher training, 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.”

Related stories

Teacher recruitment crisis looms as economy picks up  - 14 June 2014

School Direct reforms caused ‘instability and turbulence’ admits teacher training chief - 1 April 2014

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