THE SHORTAGE of student teachers, already critical, is becoming steadily worse, with traditionally popular arts subjects now proving unable to attract talented graduates.
Almost half of the secondary postgraduate courses still had vacancies this week, as colleges scrambled to fill their places for the start of term.
More than three-quarters of the courses teaching "shortage" subjects - including the economically crucial areas of maths and design and technology - still have empty places. And now there are problems in art and English, which previously had always been oversubscribed.
There is still time for courses to meet their quotas by signing up last-minute candidates.
But recruitment analyst John Howson this week said it was unlikely that the Government's target numbers would be reached in maths, modern languages, design and technology, information technology, music or art. The situation was touch and go in English, geography and science.
He said that large numbers of potential recruits who were holding offers from training providers appeared to be dropping out of the system.
While English courses attracted 2,602 applicants for 1,893 places this spring, more than one-third of the courses in the subject were still seeking prospective students. Art, which had also been oversubscribed, was short of students in 18 out of 34 courses.
"This raises concern about the quality of the people applying. They appear to be having difficulty meeting their entrance requirements," said Mr Howson, the TES "Hot Data" columnist who runs Education Data Services.
The introduction of pound;5,000 "golden hellos" for recruits in maths and science this year had helped to ease their particular problems. The total number of applicants in maths had increased from 1,272 last year to 1,671 and in science from 2,852 to 3,436.
Next year, bursaries will also be introduced for trainees to teach modern languages, another area falling behind. This year saw only 2,297 candidates compared with 2,425 a year ago. But the greatest concern lies with other subjects, usually problem-free, where the applications are falling, said Mr Howson.
Applications in art fell from 1,394 to 1,270 this year, in English from 2,753 to 2,662, in history from 1,788 to 1,670 and religious education from 833 to 804.
Don Foster, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the "golden hellos" for maths and science were themselves contributing to the new problems by discouraging candidates from taking up other subjects.
At the Liberal Democrat conference last week, Mr Foster called for all trainee teachers to be given salaries.