Four out of 10 undergraduate trainee primary school teachers do not have A-levels, figures from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) indicate.
The statistics emerged this week after a report from the right-leaning think-tank Politeia claimed England's teachers were the least qualified in the developed world.
The agency's figures reveal that only about 57 per cent of those starting undergraduate teaching courses in 2007 had A-levels, while 8 per cent had taken a higher education access course.
The average Ucas tariff score was 267, the equivalent of two C-grades and a B at A-level.
A TDA spokeswoman said: "Initial teacher training providers will set their own entry expectations, which often include A-levels, but might alternatively include evidence of successful completion of a higher education access course or other academic achievement."
Comparable figures for postgraduate courses (taken by most of those who become primary teachers) and undergraduate secondary trainees were not published. But 56 per cent of primary postgraduate trainees had a 2:1 or above.
The TDA figures also show that 11 per cent of those starting secondary courses had a degree below a 2:2 - down by two percentage points since 1999, despite the agency's advertisements and other campaigns to recruit top graduates.
Graham Holley, chief executive of the agency, said teaching was "second to none in competing for the top graduates". "The large volume and high quality of candidates with good degrees entering the teaching profession continues to grow every year, which can only be good for pupils," he said.
Data compiled for the Politeia report shows that the qualifications needed to go into teaching in England are lower than in other countries, including France, Germany and the US. A "broad range of subjects" was necessary to enter the primary sector in these countries, it said, but in England only a C-grade in GCSE maths and English and an "education" degree was required.
The report, similar to one published by the think-tank in 2007, recommended that all primary teachers should have A-levels in maths and English.