A VICTORIAN convent is doing its bit to help Oxfordshire's housing crisis.

The Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage ha opened six new one-bedroom flats exclusively available to newly-qualified teachers in the county.

The apartments, in the late 19th century St Mary's Lodge on the estate, are designed to encourage newly-qualified teachers to take up posts in Oxfordshire.

They will be let at affordable rents to teachers taking up jobs in the area.

Alastair Hunter, chairman of the community's trustees, said: "The cost of accommodation in Oxfordshire is very high.

"The community has a long and very active association with education and teaching and the sisters wanted to offer accommodation to the next generation of teachers, attracting the brightest and best to serve Wantage and the surrounding area.”

Kathryn Walker, a maths and PE teacher at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, was the first person to move in.

She said: "St Mary's Lodge is the perfect place to live starting out in my professional career.

"My apartment is spacious, modern and equipped with high-quality fixtures and fittings. It has beautiful views of the Ridgeway, is conveniently located and I love living here."

In another educational link, the Vale Academy Trust which runs King Alfred's and the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust which runs CofE primaries in the county are both using space at St Mary’s for meetings and as a base for some of their central functions.

Chief operating officer at ODST David Locke said: "We are delighted with the generous support of CSMV and the sisters in progressing this important new venture.

"Many teachers at schools in Oxfordshire are finding accommodation costs excessive. We believe that these new flats are a positive and innovative step forward."

Sister Stella, Sister in Charge at the community, added: "Teaching undergraduates in their final weeks at university and colleges are already applying for their first professional posts.

"We hope that when the autumn term starts in September the six flats in St Mary’s Lodge will all be taken and that local schools and the children and families they serve will benefit from this new legacy."