A predicted shortage of trained teachers from next year could see schools trapped in a salary bidding war to attract the best staff, experts have warned.
They predict that same-day job offers and acceptances will become a thing of the past as new entrants negotiate for the best possible wage deals.
And recruitment agencies and consultancies could take a greater control of workforce recruitment and distribution by signing up staff in shortage subjects and acting as brokers between applicants and schools.
The warning comes from Professor John Howson, of Data for Education, and Chris Waterman, an education commentator and analyst, who released figures last month showing projected shortfalls in key subjects as a result of confusion around the School Direct programme.
An analysis carried out by them showed that in physics two-thirds of School Direct places were unfilled and about 60 per cent were empty in mathematics and chemistry.
There was also a 30 per cent vacancy rate in maths on PGCE courses. The situation has been compounded by applicants needing to have passed their skills tests in literacy and numeracy before being accepted, making it impossible for schools to recruit late entrants in time for the start of the new academic year.
Experts claim that every missing maths teacher will see 150 secondary school students being taught by a non-specialist. With a shortfall of 700 teachers expected in September 2014, this will affect more than 100,000 pupils, with implications for the take-up of subjects at A level and beyond.
Mr Waterman said: “With the removal of duties on the secretary of state to plan teacher training places and confusion about how the new system will work, we are very likely to have staff shortages in key areas in 2014, with further difficulties in 2015 if those schools participating in the School Direct programme decide to pull out from further involvement, which is a real possibility.”
Mr Waterman said trainees completing their courses might find themselves in a position where they can choose jobs, based on the salary offered.
He explained: “In the same way that some schools have been accused of covertly choosing their pupils, we could easily find teachers selecting their schools rather than the other way round and waiting to get the best salary deal.
“There is nothing to stop smart recruitment agencies from snapping up the best graduates and hawking their details around to schools as a kind of broker. This is what schools are facing in the new unregulated world that has been created.”
Prof Howson added that, at a time when schools were under pressure to close the achievement gap between different groups of pupils, many could find themselves being taught by teaching lacking the appropriate subject knowledge.
Fears over the future of teacher training and recruitment have also been raised by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which revealed that heads in many parts of the country are experiencing “serious issues” with recruitment on to the School Direct programme.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary, said: “We are heading for a significant shortage in teacher recruitment.
“Although the previous system wasn’t perfect, one advantage it did have was an overall plan to ensure there were enough teachers coming through in every subject. The problem now is that there appears to be no strategic plan, and with the recruitment situation not being monitored there is no big picture of teacher recruitment and retention. Having failed to monitor the situation and use the data collected to inform what happens, it is only now, that we see the true extent of the shortages and it is too late to do much about it.”
Ian Bauckham, headteacher of Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Kent, and ASCL president elect, said: “Like many schools, we are enthusiastic about having a greater role in teacher training and have worked hard to try to recruit promising potential teachers. However, in this area of Kent, it has been very difficult, and as many as two thirds of places allocated in some cases have gone unfilled.”
Mr Bauckham said changes to training were still “poorly understood” by potential applicants and a national awareness raising campaign was needed.
“We hope the National College for Teaching and Leadership is able to address the problems head on and get this message out much more clearly,” he added. “If the issues are not addressed, we are fearful of a crisis in teacher recruitment in the future.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “School Direct is proving extremely popular. By May, around 22,500 people had applied for 10,000 places and applications continue to rise. Of course it is right that headteachers are selective and choose only the brightest graduates best suited to their schools.”