Trainee teachers 'deterred by complexities'
Would-be teachers are being put off by a complexity of routes into the profession, a heads' leader has said.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said some people were giving up and taking teaching assistant jobs.
He said confusion around the five different routes into teaching was contributing to recruitment shortages.
The Conservatives say their reforms have helped produce the best-qualified school workforce on record.
They introduced two new school-based routes into teaching: School Direct and Troops to Teachers and expanded Teach First, which fast-tracks highly-qualified graduates into schools.
These came on top of School-Centred Initial Teachers Training and the traditional post-graduate route.
Although the entry requirements are the same for each option, the training and methods of assessment vary.
Mr Lightman said: "We recognise the value of having a variety of routes into teaching. We don't want to turn the clock back. Different people are suited to different approaches.
"But it is an issue at the moment that people have found it very confusing to understand how to go about getting into teaching and it has not always been obvious to them where they should look for objective advice about all the different routes.
"This confusion has deterred people at a time when there are significant recruitment problems."
He added that in the past there was a very straightforward central registry through which potential teachers applied but now candidates had to apply to numerous places.
"Many schools all over the country report great difficulties in recruiting trainee teachers of the right calibre, newly qualified teachers in specialist subject areas and also recruiting people into more senior posts, especially heads of departments in core subjects.
"It is also particularly difficult to recruit people in challenging schools."
Mr Lightman added: "There's no doubt that there's a big recruitment crisis and we are not getting newly-trained teachers in the right places."
He said a snapshot survey of members had revealed shortages were not just appearing in the normal areas, but in all areas and at all levels.
Department for Education statistics from last autumn showed primary school training courses had recruited 93% of their target. This is the third shortfall in a row.
In December, schools inspectorate Ofsted warned that the number of new teachers had dropped by 16% over the last five years - with 8,000 fewer trainees in secondary schools alone.
ASCL has produced a route map in response to requests from school leaders who were themselves confused about the array of options.
It is calling for a future government to review the current teacher supply model and assist teacher training providers in areas where recruitment is difficult.
A Conservative spokesman said it had created new high-quality routes into the profession.
"We're proud of having delivered programmes like School Direct which allow teachers to train in the classroom from day one and having supported the expansion of Teach First so that more exceptional graduates are tackling educational disadvantage and transforming children's life chances.
"The results are clear to see, with the best qualified school workforce on record, higher standards and one million more pupils in good or outstanding schools. The next Conservative government will introduce a National Teacher Service to build on this progress, ensuring we have excellent teachers in every school across the country."
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "To attract more teachers we need to show that teaching is a high status and rewarding profession. That's why Liberal Democrats will require every teacher to hold Qualified Teacher Status, will support the Royal College of Teaching and will invest in high quality professional development.
The party said it was protecting per pupil spending in real terms so that teachers have the money they need to deliver great lessons.
Labour has criticised the Conservatives for failing to secure enough trainee teachers for three years in a row.
"Labour will focus on raising the status of the teaching profession to attract new talent and retain the best teachers. And we will end the waste caused by the free schools programme, targeting spending on areas of need so we can cap class sizes for five, six and seven-year-olds at 30," said a spokesperson.