RECRUITMENT targets for technology teachers have been slashed, prompting fears of a staff shortage in the subject and warnings that training courses could close.
Ministers have been accused of "surrender" in the battle with industry to attract those with technology skills. Their move follows a recruitment failure last year - when the number of new technology teacher trainees was some 41 per cent below target.
While the overall target for recruiting secondary teachers remains unchanged at around 16,600, places on technology courses have been cut by almost a third.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, accused ministers of a cosmetic exercise to make the shortfall look better.
He said: "People with a technology bias are voting with their feet and getting jobs outside teaching. Instead of surrendering to the situation by cutting targets, we should be facing up the fact we need technology teachers very badly and the teaching profession has got to compete on pay terms."
Training providers said the huge changes in some targets since they were first issued as indicative figures two years ago, had made it impossible to plan.
The original figure for technology, for example, was 3,300, compared to the eventual target of just 2,000.
Mary Russell, secretary to the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "It could put some institutions in a very difficult position. It could make some courses unviable."
Alternative routes into teaching are to be expanded, to help people who find it impossible to give up their jobs for a full-time training course.
School standards minister Estelle Morris said she planned to double the numbers taking the employment-based routes - where new teachers are paid to train - next year.
September 2000 will also see the introduction of up to 660 places on modular training courses, made up of separate units that students can take part-time or at their own pace.
But Ms Morris said: "It is no secret that shortage subjects remain. We are continuing to tackle them."