Only 626 schools have come forward to take on trainees on the Graduate Teacher Programme, while more than 9,500 enquiries have been received by the Teacher Training Agency which co-ordinates the scheme.
The shortage of places is a particular blow to mature entrants, for whom the programme was largely intended. Graduates with experience of industry are seen as an important source of expertise in maths and science.
But there is mounting evidence that older entrants find it hard to get work, even if they have gone through the training. And any job losses resulting from this week's pay rise will damage their prospects further.
The graduate programme has proved most successful among overseas-trained teachers who want to be able to work in the UK. They made 20 per cent of the enquiries last year but took 40 per cent of the places.
The route - the only one where trainees earn a salary - appeals to those wishing to switch career.
The TTA hopes a new network of regional recruitment advisers will raise the scheme's profile. A "marriage bureau" to be set up this year will concentrate on maths and science - the shortage subjects for which the Government continued on page 2 continued from page 1 wants the TTA to create 600 places.
But at the moment, the advice from the TTA for would-be trainees is: look in The TES for a vacancy and try to persuade the school to take you on as an unqualified trainee.
Steve Jackson, chair of the Association of Teachers Against Ageism, set up last summer to campaign for mature entrants, said: "There is a mismatch between what the TTA wants and what schools actually do."