Students who enter primary teacher training this year will be gambling with unemployment because of a big increase in the number of places, according to a leading recruitment analyst.
From September there will be 16,300 places for people wanting to train as primary teachers in universities, colleges and schools from September - up 7 per cent on the current academic year.
The primary places will include 400 for early-years specialists and 580 for trainees wanting to specialise in a foreign language. But John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said there were already signs that it will be harder for trainees to find a job when they finish their courses in 2004.
The number of people retiring is due to increase each year between 2002-7, but this has to be balanced by the drop in the number of pupils, which means fewer teachers will be needed.
Professor Howson said: "The only change which would require more teachers is the workload agreement which promises more non-contact time. But there has been no indication that schools will have enough money to implement this. If the agreement is not funded, there will be a serious employment problem. People on training courses who are leaving this summer could struggle to find jobs, so increasing the numbers on such courses by a further 1,100 in the autumn is difficult to justify.
"It appears the Government has increased the number of primary places because of policy decisions about language and early years without guaranteeing through the funding mechanism that those policies will create jobs. We could go from a teacher shortage in 2001 to a surplus in just four years.
"Training to be a primary schoolteacher will become a bet on whether the Government will fund the workload agreement. The question is whether, with growing student debt, people will want to take that risk?"
There will be the same number of places overall for secondary trainees - 19,500. This includes a reduction in places for geography, history and art specialists and increases for maths, information and communications technology, music and religious education.
Next year, 4,950 people will be able to take the graduate teacher programme, which enables graduates to train while working in a school and earning a salary.
Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency which oversees provision in England, said: "Schools are still hungry for teachers, particularly in early years and in maths, physics and chemistry.
The extra places will enable us to sustain the recent increases in recruitment."
A government spokesman said: "We have increased primary teacher training places because we expect increased demand for specialist early years, languages and special needs teachers."