A DIMINISHING number of teachers and 'worrying' drop in support roles have fuelled concerns about recruitment and cash struggles in Oxfordshire's schools.

Teachers have persistently warned of the impact of staffing levels and stretched budgets, predicting bigger class sizes and job cuts for valued support staff.

Now, new figures released by the Department for Education appear to add clout to their claims, revealing a drop in classroom teachers, school workforce overall and 'auxiliary staff' – such as technicians, counsellors and administrators.

Data was collected in November as part of the state school census, and shows dwindling numbers compared to 2010 – the first time the government published workforce figures in their current form.

One Oxfordshire teacher has calculated that, because of the recent rise in pupil numbers, this county would need 386 more full-time teachers to match the 2010 pupil-to-teacher ratio.

Jon Ryder, curriculum deputy at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, blamed 'significant budget pressures’ for the ‘worrying’ drop in auxiliary staff.

He added: “This is against the context of increased responsibilities for finance, premises and personnel as well as significant additional costs borne by schools such as insurance.

“You can’t easily reduce teacher numbers if the classrooms are full and teachers are teaching up to legal [classroom] capacity – however, you can reduce numbers of other staff.”

The total number of full-time classroom teachers in the county has decreased by 64 and the overall number of classroom teachers by 76, now standing at 4,372 and 5,222 respectively.

This is despite several new schools opening since then and scores of school expansions.

The number of auxiliary staff in Oxfordshire schools plummeted by nearly 700 from 2,715 in 2010 to 2,066 in 2017.

The total school workforce in Oxfordshire declined from 15,677 to 15,291, a drop of 386, while the pupil-to-teacher ratio rose from 17 to 18.5 – now exceeding the England average.

The problems have been epitomised by Henry Box School in Witney, where 17 teachers are due to leave at the end of this academic year, and headteacher Wendy Hemmingsley has said she is battling a 'funding crisis'.

The local decline in teachers reflects a national drop in teacher numbers, which the Association of School and College Leaders said presented a 'serious threat to educational standards'.

Staff with qualified teacher status reduced from 97 per cent to 92 per cent, lower than the national average of 95.3 per cent.

Mr Ryder said: “This reflects our increasing dependence on overseas trained teachers, whose qualification may not be recognised by the Department for Education.

“This is further evidence of the pressure on recruitment and the problem of not granting or renewing visas for teachers, despite obvious shortages.”

There were significant increases in other categories of the workforce, including teachers in leadership roles and teaching assistants.

Mr Ryder suggested the academisation of the county’s schools had created more leadership roles.

Previously headteachers and multi-academy trusts have pointed to high house prices as an aggravating factor in the county's recruitment crisis.

In November, 4.1 per cent of the county's schools were advertising a vacancy – above the national average of 3.3 per cent.

Education expert and county councillor John Howson said: "We need more teacher training places in Oxfordshire and the universities and teaching school need to get together to ensure those who train are more likely to stay."

He said the county's many private schools added to the competition for teachers.

The Department for Education has invested £1.3bn into teacher recruitment and previously insisted there are 'more teachers in England's schools than ever before'.