THE teacher recruitment crisis will become "catastrophic" unless the Government drastically cuts bureaucracy and raises morale in the profession, the Conservatives have warned.
Britain will be short of around 31,000 teachers by 2004 unless current trends are reversed, shadow education secretary Theresa May told an opposition debate on recruitment this week.
But Government sources dismissed the claim, saying that training salaries, better pay and special initiatives to boost shortage subjects were already having an effect.
The prediction was based on figures produced by House of Commons Library researchers who were asked to calculate the future teacher shortfall by Mrs May.
It said: "In January 2000 there were 429,000 full-time equivalent teachers, an ncrease of more than 5,000. This is around 2,000 below the required number for this year - implying an increase in the gap between supply and demand. The extra number required by 2004 is now 14,000. If nothing changes in the teaching profession up to 2004 the overall gap may have grown to around 31,000."
Mrs May said: "These projected figures show the crisis that is facing the nation's schools. The Government has reacted with arrogance and complacency.
"It is the children who are losing out. Something must be done before irreparable damage is done to their education."
A Department for Education and Employment spokesman said: "We are recruiting 6,000 more teachers than 10 years ago. There's more to do, but this Government has bucked past trends."