Only four in ten newly qualified teachers are managing to secure permanent jobs after completing their initial training, statistics reveal today.
Figures published by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) show that in March this year only 40 per cent of the 1,542 registered NQTs in Wales had found substantive work in primary or secondary schools. This compares to 46 per cent last year and 66 per cent in 2003.
The figures also reveal that a rising number of NQTs are having to rely on supply teaching to earn a living, with 37.5 per cent in that situation this year compared to just 10 per cent back in 2002.
GTCW deputy chief executive Hayden Llewellyn said: "While there has been a little fluctuation over the years, there is now a very clear trend towards newly qualified teachers failing to get substantive jobs and having to register with agencies in order to get temporary and intermittent work as supply teachers at various different schools."
GTCW chair Angela Jardine described it as a matter of "considerable concern" that people were investing time in training, "but significantly less than half of them are actually getting jobs".
Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said the statistics confirmed anecdotal evidence from his members. "NQT jobs are scarce and many young teachers are eking out a living on supply wages," he said.
"This is a wake-up call. We are training too many teachers for too few jobs, and we must start to look seriously at workforce modelling."
Elaine Edwards, general secretary of Welsh-medium union UCAC, said the figures were a "serious cause for concern".
"There's a real danger we could lose very good people from the profession," she said.
Ms Edwards said it was also "disappointing" that so many NQTs were forced into supply teaching jobs to start their careers. UCAC recently called for urgent action to stop supply agencies "undermining" teachers' pay and conditions and "disrespecting" the profession.
Meanwhile, a separate set of figures shows that the number of new teachers achieving the induction standard has also fallen.
In the past year just 236 teachers met the standard, down from a high of 1,324 in 200506.
Teachers must complete three school terms in a teaching job before they can be assessed to prove their classroom capability.
As this must be attained within five years of completing initial teacher training, Mr Llewellyn said the figures suggest many NQTs are remaining without jobs for quite some time afterwards.
Dr Dixon said it must become easier for young teachers to complete induction and called for a similar scheme to the one in Scotland where there is a guaranteed induction year.
The GTCW's statistics digest has been published each year since 2002 and covers a range of indicators including the age, gender, ethnicity, qualifications and disability status of teachers and headteachers.
Kirsty Gould, from Cardiff, finished her PGCE at Swansea Metropolitan University two years ago, but is struggling to find a permanent job.
Although the 24-year-old will complete her induction year shortly thanks to experience gained from two maternity-cover placements at primary schools, she said competition for jobs is fierce.
"I'm finding it almost impossible at the moment," she said. "There are jobs out there if you look in the right places, but too many people are applying for the same posts. I have always wanted to teach so I will persevere, but it's difficult because I've got no financial security."
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The minister, as part of his 20- point plan to reform education in Wales, recently announced his intention to review teacher training in Wales as a whole.
"Alongside this work we are also evaluating the number of Welsh ITT places we fund in the future.
"It is important to note that individual teacher recruitment and the use of supply teachers is a matter for schools, who need to consider the best staffing arrangements for their specific circumstances."