Tuition fee rises and government attacks on the teaching profession could lead to staff shortages on the scale of the 1980s, it was warned today.
Applications for graduate and postgraduate primary teacher training courses have plummeted by 17 per cent from last year, partly due to rising tuition fees, said Pearson think tank's Professor John Howson.
He added that low morale in the profession and rapidly rising pupil numbers were creating the "perfect storm" that could lead to major problems recruiting enough staff in the future.
In his report Prof Howson said that immediate action was vital as demand for primary teachers was set to increase rapidly, with pupil numbers in maintained nursery and state-funded primary schools projected to rise by 8 per cent by 2015.
He said: "A perfect storm of falling teacher training applications, low staff morale and rapidly rising pupil numbers could easily create a future teacher workforce crisis in primary schools if left unchallenged.
"The government needs to take urgent steps now, including higher bursaries for primary initial training education to avoid a crisis in our schools which would impact on the education of thousands of pupils across the country."
Teaching unions backed the findings and called for Education Secretary Michael Gove to act now or face a chronic shortage of teachers in the future.
Pete Mountstephen of the National Primary Headteachers Association said: "Within the next five to 10 years I think probably 50 to 60 per cent of the current head teachers will have retired and no-one wants to take their place."
National Union of Teachers deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney added: "If Michael Gove does not want the teacher shortages of the 1980s to be his legacy he should address these issues urgently."
But the Department for Education said talk of a crisis "could not be further from the truth" and the number of students actually entering the profession had risen this year.
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