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The good life in beechy Bucks

Isn't Buckinghamshire rather beautiful?

Yes, it does have some lovely countryside. Not for nothing did Betjeman, my favourite poet, describe it as "beechy Bucks". It is a long and narrow county, stretching from the outskirts of Milton Keynes (now a unitary authority) down to the fringes of London.

Affluent too?

Largely. Bucks is way above average economically and socially, with lots of picturesque commuter-belt villages. It also has a concentration of public schools: there are 26 registered with the independent schools service ISIS.

The county still has selective secondary education: just less than a third of secondary-age children attend grammar schools. Perhaps not surprisingly, its schools do well. Bucks is consistently high in the performance league tables.

What am I waiting for?

The picture isn't all rosy. Last year the Office for Standards in Education criticised the local education authority for the upheaval caused by its reorganisation of schools and for its low levels of funding.

The county is in the throes of a recruitment crisis and is jumping through hoops to attract teachers. Incentives include help with housing and a brokerage scheme for newly qualified teachers, which saves having to send lots of applications to schools.

Bucks has a good range of schools and many vacancies, particularly in design technology, mathematics, languages and science. There are 69 infant schools, 32 junior and 4 schools for five to 11-year-olds. In terms of secondary education, there are 13 grammar and 21 upper schools.

"There's something for everyone," says Kim Watson, recruitment strategy manager.

What is there to do once the marking is done?

There are always the bright lights of High Wycombe. No, I'm only kidding.

Buckinghamshire's towns and villages have their share of good restaurants and pubs, while for weekend walks there are the Chiltern Hills.

One attraction is its proximity to London - and its night life - though this is also proving a turn-off for teachers.

House prices?

That's the turn-off. Housing costs are a bit like London, but you don't get the salary benefit of London weighting.

A three-bedroom semi-detached house in High Wycombe starts at around pound;150,000 and goes up to pound;220,000, depending on which neighbourhood of town you choose. In up-market Beaconsfield, Amersham or Gerrards Cross, similar property costs between pound;250,000 and pound;300,000.

To rent a one-bedroom flat in High Wycombe will cost pound;500 a month, in Beaconsfield pound;650pm. Renting a three-bedroom house in High Wycombe is pound;800-pound;1,000pm and in Beaconsfield, up to pound;1,500 a month.

Famous sons, daughters?

While short of teachers, there is no shortage of pop stars, including Spice Girl Mel B, Bee Gee Barry Gibb and rock wild man Ozzy Osbourne. And that bloke with the funny hats from Jamiroquai.

Martin Whittaker

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