Teacher training providers have been told to bid for places for September 2017 – but not informed how the government will decide between them.
The government's education White Paper, published in March, confirmed that it would abandon its free-for-all system of teacher training places, described as "chaotic" by providers.
And today's call for bids confirms that the one-year experiment of scrapping allocated places in favour of imposing a national limit on places has been dropped. But there are still questions over what exactly will happen next.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership has today asked schools and universities to register their requests for training places in the 2017-18 training year – although it adds that it will not announce how it will allocate places until later this summer.
The NCTL document says: “Further detail of the approach we will take to allocations will be published later in the summer; lead schools and ITT [initial teacher training] providers should request places based on a realistic assessment of local need and their minimum viability level to deliver the course.”
But it adds: “We will write to lead schools and ITT providers when the allocation of places is determined and available to view.”
James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: “This signals a move away from this year's chaotic recruitment control methodology to a more traditional allocations model.
"This year’s free-for-all meant providers had to fill places as quickly as possible. It meant applicants were turned away from interviews on the day because the recruitment cap had been applied at midnight. There was no scope to plan or take time to consider who were the best people to recruit.
“We welcome a return to a more allocations-based system, but much will depend on the criteria used to determine allocations. We hope it will be an equitable system which treats all types of providers on an equal footing. We encourage the NCTL to take heed of the Public Accounts Committee report and make allocations in a way to allow providers to plan to meet the needs of schools over a longish period.”
There has been a slight rise in applications for teacher training this year. There were 38,520 applications for teacher training by May 2016, compared with 37,160 by May last year, according to Ucas.
There have been concerns that the system this year – in which providers were told to recruit until a national limit was reached – meant hundreds of potential high-quality teachers were turned away, while leaving some areas with far fewer trainees than they needed.
The NCTL has also admitted that it needs more classics places, as there were fewer places available in classics in 2016 than the target number of trainee teachers. “This will mean that, despite healthy applicant numbers, there will inevitably be a shortfall in the number of trainees recruited in this subject,” the NCTL states.