The backlog of checks on teachers and other staff in schools required by the Criminal Records Bureau has meant that further education has taken second place.
The Association of Colleges' helpline has been inundated with calls from colleges. They have received more than 100 calls seeking advice, around 25 per cent of the sector.
There are serious problems for students on childcare courses, nursery nurses, and also those on sports and leisure courses. More than 10,000 students may have their studies delayed while they wait for checks to be made. Until they are vetted they cannot take up their placements and will therefore not be able to start the practical parts of their course.
Education Secretary Estelle Morris was forced to lift the ban on teachers whose checks had not been completed last week.
But in the colleges many principals are reluctant to let staff teach if they have not been fully vetted. "The problems are really focused on the students and dealing with their placements and needs," said a spokeswoman for the AOC.
"But we have received advice from the Office for Standards in Education that students can start as long as the provider of the placement - not the college - is satisfied that they have done all the other checks that they can and they are never left unsupervised."
But she said some students had not taken up placements. "There have been instances where the local provider has said that even though the guidance is that people can start, they want more than that. And they won't provide the placement," said the spokeswoman.
"There has been a lot of disruption, and the checks still have to take place. We are giving colleges as much information as we can. Perhaps I am being slightly optimistic but I think things will have been sorted out by Christmas."
The association alerted the DFES and Home Office to the problem in January. At roughly the same time, Education Lecturing Services warned colleges could be 1,000 lecturers short by the summer