Number of applications falls
New figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that the numbers wanting to train on three and four-year teaching courses have fallen by 11 per cent.
Meanwhile, other subjects have seen record increases and the total of university applications has also risen slightly. It is expected to reach 450,000. Biochemistry and physics have both seen big percentage rises.
The teacher-training courses affected by the downturn are mostly the Bachelor of Education degrees for primary school specialists.
There are well-established recruitment problems in the secondary sector but this is the first time in recent years that there has been any difficulty over primary applications.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, blamed low professional morale for the drop.
"One of the reasons students are turning away from teaching is the denigration and abuse that has been going on for an awful long time now.
"The drive for higher standards must be accompanied by measures to raise morale and motivation," he said.
Anthea Millett, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, said that the fall in applications is a concern. But the quality of primary trainees, she said, is a greater obstacle. "There are real problems with the quality of the recruits. We would also like to see more men."
According to UCAS the average A-level score for teaching courses was only a C and two Ds, the lowest of any main group.
The coming autumn will see the launch of a new recruitment strategy from the TTA which, said Ms Millett, will encourage society as a whole to contribute.
"There are going to be challenging targets for other groups in the system to meet: local authorities, headteachers, businesses.
"We all need to talk up teaching as a career, as the thing that your bright young graduates should want to do."