APPLICATIONS for teacher-training courses starting next year are down by nearly a quarter, latest figures reveal.
The Teacher Training Agency figures show that up to the beginning of this month, 4,882 applications had been made compared with last year's 6,236.
But the agency says enquiries about teaching last month were up more than 60 per cent on last year. It is pinning its hopes on a pound;7 million advertising campaign, appearing in newspapers, posters and beer mats, and due to hit cinema and TV screens at Christmas.
But the December 15 deadline for primary applications means the sector will not benefit from a major part of the campaign.
John Howson, recruitment specialist and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said ministers should be concerned as the early signs suggested fewer applications were trickling in despite the announcement in March of salaries for trainees.
The TTA said enquiries were up 132 per cent to 23,169 in September and up 61 per cent to 16,396 in October. A spokesman said: "It's way too early in the recruitment cycle to b wringing our hands."
Just over 15 per cent of the 13,140 PGCE secondary trainees in England and Wales who started their course in 199899 dropped out. In 199697 the drop-out rate was 12 per cent.
The agency has yet to release recruitment figures for courses which started this term. These are expected to fall below government targets, and to show problems in shortage subjects, despite the pound;4,000 "golden hellos" and pound;6,000 postgraduate training salaries.
Meanwhile, newly-qualified teachers receiving the first "golden hellos" have just discovered payments have been taxed. Maths and science teachers who finished postgraduate certificates in education this summer were promised bonuses of pound;5,000. Around pound;800 has been deducted in tax and National Insurance.
The bonuses were paid in two instalments - half during training and the rest on entry to teaching. The second payment was added to starting salaries and is taxable.
Tom Brodie, a newly-qualified maths teacher at Pathway community school in Bristol, said: "I feel a bit cheated by the Government."