The number of people applying to start training as teachers next year has dropped by more than 40 per cent compared with last year.
Data from admissions body UCAS shows that 7,310 people had applied for teacher training by November 20, 2017 – compared with 12,840 at the same time last year.
The opening date for applications for teacher training courses in higher education, schools-based initial teacher training (Scitt) and school direct courses in 2016 started a week earlier than in 2017.
But John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said that the drop was worrying.
“The size of that fall – 43 per cent – is, in my view, significant,” Professor Howson said.
Last year, applications for universities held up better than those for school-based routes.
Professor Howson said: “The risk of this level of decline in November, is that some of the school-based training could be wiped out.
“If the January figures show no significant improvement, than the government will have to seriously consider the implications for recruitment to make sure there are enough teachers in 2019.”
Candidates can apply for up to three courses – so the number of applications is higher than the number of applicants. There were 19,590 applications by November 2017, compared with 34,820 by November 2016.
Applications in the current year also include apprenticeship courses. UCAS does not distinguish between apprenticeships and school direct (salaried) applications, and the statistics show there have been 2,370 applications for these courses combined.
The figures come after the initial teacher training census for 2017, published by the Department for Education last week, revealed that the government missed its teacher training targets in all secondary subjects apart from PE and history.
The figures also revealed that 56 per cent of postgraduate trainees were on school-led routes in 2016-17 but this had dropped to 53 per cent in 2017-18.