SCHOOLS in Oxfordshire are struggling to staff their classrooms amid a 'severe' teacher shortage, new figures suggest.

Last year saw a 'significant' rise in the number of teacher vacancies advertised by the county's schools, particularly at secondary level.

While there was a 15 per cent increase overall, the number of job adverts for core subjects including maths, English and science inflated by more than 60 per cent.

According to the statistics, recorded by employment service TeachVac, the number of vacancies in the county rose from 1,037 in 2018 to 1,193 in 2019.

Chris Waterman, secretary of the all-party parliamentary group for teaching, said: "Severe teacher shortages have the greatest impact on schools in challenging circumstances.

"This inevitably works against any efforts to narrow the gap in attainment."

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TeachVac collected data daily for most state-funded schools and some private schools in England, from January 1 until Christmas Eve, by monitoring adverts posted on school websites.

Nationally, the organisation said it was a 'record year' for the number of vacancies, up by nine per cent on 2018.

The primary sector saw a six per cent decline in posts, however, likely due to a decline in pupils as a large cohort of children moved on to secondary school.

This was also the case in Oxfordshire, with a four per cent dip in primary vacancies, falling from 335 to 323.

Oxfordshire county councillor John Howson, chair of TeachVac, said: "2019 saw a significant increase in vacancies for teachers.

"This was due, in part, to pupil numbers increasing in the secondary sector."

Last year saw the new Swan School in Oxford open, which recruited a team of staff to teach the first cohort of 120 pupils.

County-wide, TeachVac recorded 178 vacancies for science, compared to 110 in 2018 - a rise of 62 per cent.

Maths positions rose by 63 per cent, from 90 to 147, while English posts increased by 54 per cent from 69 to 106.

Some subjects saw a decline in demand, however, including art, business and languages.

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Many schools have highlighted recruitment as a challenge, including the Didcot-based Ridgeway Education Trust.

The academy trust runs Didcot Girls' School, nearby St Birinus School and Sutton Courtenay CE Primary School.

In its annual accounts for 2019, published on Companies House just before Christmas, trustees said Oxfordshire's high living costs have exacerbated the problem.

The report stated: "Recruiting and retaining high quality teachers has become more challenging as there is increasingly a national recruitment shortage of teachers, which is more difficult in expensive counties such as Oxfordshire.

"The trust is aware that the risk of [not] recruiting and retaining excellent teachers is heightened as a result of the challenging financial climate in which the schools now operate."

Despite the challenges, the report highlighted how its recruitment for the 2019/2020 academic year was 'successful' nonetheless and saw 'strong appointments across our schools'.

It added that the 'coming together of schools within the trust' had opened up 'more career opportunities' for staff.

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Recently the Mill Academy Trust, which runs three academies including The Henry Box School in Witney, also wrote to parents about the 'national recruitment and retention crisis'.

As reported last week, the trust urged parents not to bombard teachers with emails, adding: "We want to keep them in a profession they are fully committed to."

Prof Howson said for many of the country's best young teachers, working overseas can be tempting due to better pay and 'more congenial working conditions'.

He added: "Schools were faced with difficulties recruiting in subjects where the government had failed to recruit enough new trainee teachers in 2018, to meet the needs of schools for September 2019.

"2020 will be another challenging year for recruitment."

State schools in Oxfordshire, and particularly Oxford, also have to compete with a high concentration of private schools to attract staff.

In November, figures revealed that the government had missed both its secondary and primary teacher training targets again.

In a statement last year, the Department for Education admitted it was 'losing more teachers from the profession than we can afford to'.

The new figures showed that computing and IT had the largest increase in vacancies nationally, of 57 per cent, with design technology just behind at 56 per cent.

English vacancies recorded rose by 37 per cent, as did mathematics.

The Department for Education launched a teacher recruitment and retention strategy last year, in a bid to get more inspirational people into the career.

Its Get Into Teaching campaign has also included a roadshow of recruitment events, which has previously stopped at Oxford's Randolph Hotel.