Concerns about a looming teacher supply crisis have deepened after government figures were released showing that there has been a fall in the number of people starting teacher training courses this September.
The statistics reveal that less than half (44 per cent) of design and technology teacher training places were filled. Targets in maths (88 per cent), languages (79 per cent) and physics (67 per cent) were also missed.
In total, 93 per cent of places were filled, down from 95 per cent last year.
The statistics also reveal that just 61 per cent of School Direct places were filled this year; 6,451 of the 11,335 fee-paying places allocated and 2,781 of the 3,919 salaried places. This compares to 90 per cent of university places. Last year 68 per cent of School Direct places were filled.
Professor John Howson, a teacher workforce expert and honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford, said: “This is the third year running that the government has failed to hit its targets in key subjects and the second year running that design and technology has failed to get even half of the people it needs. It is a disgrace.
"The government must explain to parents how they are going to make sure there are sufficient numbers of teachers to teach physics, design and technology and languages. The easiest thing is to say they will pay the £9,000 course fees of everybody.
“If the government is not going to recruit enough teachers in the first instance, it has to have CPD programmes in place to allow heads to upskill their existing workforce.”
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The feedback from heads around the country is that recruitment is a major issue, not just in English and maths but across most subjects."
But the government has pointed out that the statistics also show that record levels of graduates with a first-class degree are training to teach (17 per cent) and that its new teacher recruitment campaign, Your Future Their Future, is attracting different candidates.
It added that computing now has more entrants, with 519 trainees, up from 359 last year – although the target this year was 620 entrants.
School Direct was introduced in 2012 when schools were given the chance to take the lead in recruiting trainees. Schools must partner with a higher education institution or school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) provider to provide out-of-classroom training.
There are two School Direct routes, fee-paying and salaried, and the total number of places allocated to School Direct has rocketed from 772 in 2012 to 15,254 this year and 17,609 next year.
But a report from Universities UK published last month warns that School Direct has been more successful in recruiting trainee teachers for English and history than science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects. It adds that the pace of change could create teacher supply issues.
A further report from the Higher Education Commission argues that the system of tuition fees for higher education in general is unsustainable, with teachers unlikely to pay back their student loans.
Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, said: “It is great news that we continue to see the quality of new entrants into teaching increasing year on year, with levels of trainees holding a first-class degree at an all-time high.
“There is clear evidence that teachers make the biggest difference to pupil attainment and a key component of this is excellent subject knowledge. That is why we are offering generous tax-free bursaries and prestigious scholarships to help us recruit the nation's most talented graduates.”