The number of trainee teachers has reached a 12-year peak, according to figures out this week. But despite more than 35,000 people embarking on undergraduate and postgraduate courses, shortages of teachers look set to continue, particularly in secondary schools.
The Teacher Training Agency said that 10 per cent more students had begun primary training and 5 per cent more secondary training since last year. This is the third year running in which numbers have gone up.
School standards minister David Miliband said: "The introduction of training bursaries, golden hellos and the scheme to repay student loans for priority subjects have made teacher training a much more attractive choice for graduates."
But the increases would need to be stepped up to plug the shortfall of secondary school teachers, according to the Secondary Heads Association. It warned that the profession would still be facing a "crisis" in 15 years'
time if recruitment remained static.
Esme Glavert, head of primary education at the Institute of Education in London, said the crux of the problem was retention rather than recruitment. "We are in danger of filling up the bath with the plug out," she said.
The National Union of Teachers has calculated that less than half of all trainees are working as teachers three years after graduating.
"With so many recruits leaving the profession we need to examine carefully what we do in the early years to consolidate, so that individuals get a good send-off," Ms Glavert said.
"Trainees set out, in many cases, with very high ideals and these can be difficult to maintain in what is often a challenging career. There needs to be more joined-up thinking," she said.
Trainee teachers at Trinity and All Saints, a college of the University of Leeds, said inadequate classroom support was one obstacle to keeping teachers in the profession.
"Too many people think teaching is a 9 till 3 occupation, they don't realise how much preparation and assessment is involved," student Victoria Benn said.
"You either love it or you hate it," said fellow student Louise Appleby. "Anyone who is still here in the third year of a tough four-year course knows what they are in for and is going to stick it out.
"The new fast-track initiatives are more likely to attract people who don't really know what they want to do and are not prepared for what life as a teacher is all about."
Jenny Share, registrar of Trinity and All Saints, said recruitment had been buoyant this year across all subjects except maths and religious education. More than 96 per cent of PGCE graduates from the college went into teaching, although the dropout rate was quite high.
"We aim to make sure there are no surprises for our students once they enter the classroom. The key to retention is preparing trainees thoroughly. Inevitably, some students discover teaching is not for them and they leave with our blessing. It's better to find out earlier rather than later," she said.