Figures published by the Department for Education and Skills show that just 10,320 people successfully finished their training in 2000 compared with 12,090 a year earlier - a 15 per cent drop .
Vacancy rates in primary schools in some areas are even higher than those in secondaries, according to recruitment expert Professor John Howson.
Overall, however, secondary schools are in greater need of additional teachers, official statistics show.
The figures, published on the DFES website, show vacancy rates across all schools almost doubled between January 2000 and 2001.
According to the Government, schools in England and Wales were short of 5,076 teachers last year compared with 2,977 the previous year.
In secondary schools, there is little sign of improved recruitment in the key shortage subject of maths.
Despite a small rise since the introduction of golden hellos, the number of people completing training as maths teachers is around half that for English which takes up a similar amount of curriculum time.
The pressure on schools will be increased by a rise in the number of teachers retiring. Many of those who were denied an early escape in 1998 when the Government tightened the rules are now about to reach retirement age.
Professor Howson, of Education Data Surveys, estimates that this factor will increase the numbers leaving the profession by about 1,000 from next year. He said that recruitment problems in primary schools were the result of the Government setting training quotas too low rather than a lack of applicants.
Education Secretary Estelle Morris has said that teachers' workload is one of her top priorities and the School Teachers' Review Body is preparing a report for ministers. One of its key components is expected to be an increase in the time available for teachers to spend away from their pupils on marking and preparation.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a massive leap in recruitment was needed if teacher workloads were to be cut.
"The idea that we are moving backwards when we should be going fast-forwards is horrifying," he said.