HIGH costs of living in Oxfordshire have been blamed for a shortage of teachers in county schools which has left many in crisis.

New figures show staff vacancies shot up by more than 50 per cent in Oxfordshire last year.

County headteachers joined colleagues in the Association of School and College Leaders in urging the Government to address falling recruitment and retention – exacerbated in the county by the high cost of living.

Data from teaching jobs site TeachVac shows primary and secondary schools in Oxfordshire posted 2,118 vacancies through its website over the course of last year – up by 56 per cent on 1,362 the year before.

Of these, 586 were advertised by primaries and 1,532 by secondaries.

A professional working in education in Oxfordshire, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It varies from school to school, but getting good staff is becoming a major headache.

“Schools where teachers have always wanted to work are still able to fill vacancies. But it is very hard at certain schools and in certain subjects.

“It’s a national problem exacerbated by the unaffordability of living in Oxford and Oxfordshire.”

Rob Pavey, headteacher of Cheney School in Headington, Oxford, agreed that the high cost of living was a factor.

He said: “Recruitment is a challenge, and it is getting harder, although I wouldn’t yet characterise it as desperate in our particular context.

“Cheney is lucky in being able to attract and retain good staff in all subject areas, and we have no gaps at the minute. Other schools up and down the country may not be so fortunate, however, and the statistics on teacher recruitment certainly suggest that we are in a good position.”

But he added: “Having said that, Oxford is an expensive place to live, and the decline in the real value of teachers’ salaries over the last 15 years certainly makes it difficult to persuade new graduates that it is an attractive profession.”

And he said not being able to afford to live near work presented another problem.

“This year, the traffic has been a big problem, as half of our teaching staff live outside of Oxford and commute in, and I know that several are actively looking for jobs where the journey to work will be easier.

“I suspect that this is going to be an increasingly big problem over the next 12 months.”

Across England, teacher vacancies increased significantly in 2022 as the profession faced increasing recruitment and retention pressures following the coronavirus pandemic  job listings on TeachVac increased from 64,283 in 2021 to 107,104 last year.

The City of London  which has a very small residential population  was the only area to see the number of advertised teaching vacancies decrease.

Some jobs can be listed more than once if they are not initially filled, and not every teaching vacancy is posted to the TeachVac site.

The ASCL said teacher shortages are in crisis, with 95 per cent of schools reporting they have struggled to recruit new teachers in the past.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said the Government repeatedly misses trainee recruitment targets, and nearly a third of new teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying.

Mr Barton said: “This is the result of a decade of real terms pay cuts which have eroded the value of salaries and workload pressures caused by government underfunding of education, leaving staff doing more work with fewer resources.

“If schools cannot put teachers in front of classes, they cannot possibly maintain and improve educational standards.

“The Government must work with the profession on a strategy to improve teacher recruitment and retention and back this up with sufficient funding.”

Across the country, the increase in teacher vacancies through TeachVac was largely driven by state schools, where job advertisements increased by 68 per cent in 2022, compared with 52 per cent for independent schools.

In Oxfordshire, state school advertisements jumped by 51 per cent, while private school vacancies rose by 68 per cent.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of teaching trade union NASUWT, said: “The crisis in teacher recruitment and retention is the product of 12 years of failure by a government that has lost the confidence of the teaching profession.

“It is little wonder that the Government’s failure to invest in the profession has resulted in many experienced teachers and headteachers quitting the profession prematurely as a consequence of real terms pay cuts and ever-rising workload pressures.”

Liz Brighouse, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, education and youth services, was contacted for comment.