A third of students who trained as primary teachers last year have failed to find a job in the classroom, new figures reveal.
The record number of new teachers out of work was blamed this week on stretched primary budgets, combined with an oversupply of trainees in some parts of the country.
The figures show 15,101 students trained as primary teachers in 2004, high compared with recent years, and 3,500 more than in 2000. It was believed the extra staff would be needed to replace an increasing number of teachers retiring and to implement the workforce agreement, intended to give all teachers at least half a day a week outside the classroom to mark work.
But an analysis by the Centre for Education and Employment Research, based at Buckingham university, shows only 67 per cent of trainees were recorded as being in the classroom by March, against more than three-quarters just two years ago.
Although some trainees dropped out of courses, delayed entry to the profession or shunned the classroom altogether, the study reveals thousands were still looking for their first post, eight months after qualifying.
The north and south-west of England were worst hit. Almost a quarter of the 202 primary trainees from Durham university were said to be still "seeking a teaching post" by March this year. At Liverpool John Moores university, 17 per cent had not found work and serious job shortages were also reported in York, Exeter and Plymouth. However, many universities in London and the South-east reported a near 100 per cent employment rate. Despite shortages elsewhere in the North, trainees from Newcastle, Leeds Metropolitan and Liverpool Hope universities also fared well.
Professor Alan Smithers, who compiled the report, said: "Because of falling birthrates, newly-qualified primary teachers are finding it difficult to find posts in some parts of the country, but it also underlines the failure of the Government to properly fund workforce reform. The Government is content to allow schools to rely on teaching assistants to implement the agreement."
The pattern of job shortages looks likely to be repeated this summer. One university in the North told The TES this week that only 118 of its 300-plus trainees had found work for September.
A primary teacher from Yorkshire, who has spent two years looking for her first job, said she recently applied for a short-term maternity contract with 60 other applicants. In May, more than 100 people applied for a post as a Year 1 teacher at a school in Yorkshire.
This week's study also reveals that 71 per cent of secondary students found work after training last year. This was down slightly on the previous year, but well up on the 65 per cent recorded in 1998, the first year data was collected.
The Teacher Training Agency said its own statistics, which looked at students who gained Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) after completing courses last year, revealed a much higher proportion with jobs. It said 90 per cent of primary and secondary trainees were in the classroom. Graham Holley, executive director at the TTA, said: "Employment prospects for NQTs remain strong."
Secondary teachers are also better qualified than ever, the report shows.
More than half of those accepted onto a postgraduate course had a 2:1 or first, although only 41 per cent of trainees in maths, one of the key shortage subjects, had a good degree.
The report rated Oxford university as the top teacher-training provider, based on student qualifications, Ofsted findings, and chances of employment. Cambridge, which held the top spot last year, was second.