Applications to train as a teacher in England have dropped by 9 per cent compared with this time last year.
Figures released today by university admissions organisation Ucas show that there were 119,170 applications for teacher training in England by 20 July this year, compared with 131,120 at the same time last year.
The latests statistics come amid growing concerns about a teacher recruitment crisis faced by many schools. They have prompted one expert to warn that the teacher training system is "running out of time" to find the new recruits needed.
But they also reveal that the year-on-year gap has closed as recruitment continues – in May it was 13 per cent.
Ucas handles admissions for both university and school-led routes. There has been particular concern about the low recruitment rates on to School Direct, which last year only filled 61 per cent of its 15,254 allocated places.
This year, School Direct's allocation rose by 15 per cent to 17,609 places. But today's figures show that the number of School Direct places filled has only risen by 13 per cent compared with this time last year.
John Howson, a teacher workforce expert and honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford, said: “We are running out of time. We are unlikely to get back to where we were last year because there is not enough time left to recruit people.”
There was also a question over which subjects any additional recruits would be signing up for, he added.
A recent poll carried out by TES and the National Governors' Association found one in three schools were finding it hard to recruit senior leaders and 38 per cent struggled to attract good teachers.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "These figures show an improving recruitment picture, with 2 per cent more people due to start postgraduate teacher training than this time last year. We have already exceeded our primary target and are making sustained progress in secondary – including in key subjects like English, maths, physics and chemistry, where we are ahead of last year’s performance.
“We recognise, however, that recruitment is a challenge as the economy improves and competition for new graduates intensifies, which is why we are focused on attracting more top graduates into the profession, particularly in the core academic subjects that help children reach their potential.”