A Government programme launched this week to promote teaching as a career has been condemned as too little, too late, by teacher training heads.
The new Teacher Training Agency unveiled plans for a Pounds 700,000 promotion and information campaign on Tuesday, with promises from its chief executive, Anthea Millett, that it would "raise the profile and status of the profession" and attract "high quality entrants".
But higher education recruiters complained that the initiative was too late for this year's admissions round, which has seen a sharp decline in the number of people applying to train as teachers in the shortage subject areas of maths, science and modern languages.
They said it would have less impact than previous multi-million pound television advertising campaigns run by the Teaching as a Career Unit, which has now been replaced by a contracted private-sector communications firm, Hill and Knowlton.
John Howson, a teacher training recruitment expert and deputy head of education at Oxford Brookes University, said many departments which had come to rely on an annual national advertising drive during the recruitment season to fill places would be left facing the prospect of funding clawbacks for failing to hit admissions targets.
Research by Mr Howson indicates a 10 per cent decline in the numbers of people applying to train as maths teachers this year, a 19 per cent drop in physics, a 13 per cent fall in French and a 14 per cent drop in German.
"The TTA has been aware that recruitment has been declining, yet the advertising campaigns we have been used to seeing in difficult times have been conspicuous in their absence," he said.
A TTA spokesman said there had been no national TV advertising since the early 1990s, when there were severe recruitment problems. Since April, the TTA had spent Pounds 45,000 on advertising in trade journals and on other promotional activities.
"We do recognise there are problems, but advertising tends to bring only short-term gains rather than bringing about a longer-term change in perceptions," he said.
The new initiative will involve the first national phone information hotline; a new personal advice service run by people with a teaching background; a careers fair and exhibition service; and free literature.
Anthea Millet said the campaign would also include "taster" courses for potential teachers and back-up research projects. It would not be "a flash in the pan aimed at the short-term gains that can be achieved through advertising".