The Training and Development Agency for Schools, which is in charge of enticing graduates into teacher training, says financial reward is a key factor for most graduates in choosing a career.
The agency acknowledged the Government's wish to keep teachers' pay rises below inflation, but said that headline starting salaries were especially important in promoting the profession to young graduates.
Research conducted for the agency found that 62 per cent of maths graduates and 57 per cent of science graduates identified financial reward as a significant factor in deciding whether to teach or take a more lucrative job elsewhere.
But Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, says increasing the starting salary would be a "costly deadweight" that could push up pay for more experienced teachers as well.
David Porter, 55, who has left a lucrative career as a City investment analyst to train as a teacher at the Institute of Education, said teachers'
starting pay was derisory, especially if they had student debts to pay.
Mr Johnson infuriated teaching unions last week by warning that an extra 0.5 per cent pay rise for teachers would come at the cost of one-to-one tuition for half-a-million children. Anything more than a basic 2 per cent pay rise would threaten Britain's economic stability and schools' ability to hire more staff, he said.
This week, Mr Johnson further angered teachers' unions by refusing to revisit the 2006-08 pay deal, where the annual 2.5 per cent pay rises have fallen well behind inflation. Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, described the decision as "a breach of honour".
The TDA said in evidence to the statutory teachers' pay body:
"Our view is that the benefits of attracting high-calibre entrants to the profession are so important that, looking ahead, they warrant special consideration. The TDA believes it is essential to continue to maintain a highly competitive starting salary for teachers entering the profession to ensure that the new professionalism agenda can be met and maintained."
It said that graduate employers in other sectors offered a range of financial incentives, including pension schemes, training for professional qualifications, gym memberships, private healthcare, relocation packages and share options.
The TDA said that taking a pay cut was the single most significant barrier to recruitment of professionals from other sectors.
A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said there was no case for a boost to teachers' starting salaries. "This would only squeeze pay at other points in the system, and there is, in our view, no justification for such a step," he said. "The TDA is, of course, free to comment on this from their own perspective."
GRADUATE STARTING SALARIES
Teaching pound;19,641 - pound;23,577
Investment banking pound;36,000
Legal work pound;31,000
Actuarial work pound;25,750
Financial management pound;25,000
Retail management pound;20,500
Human resources pound;20,000
Source: AGR Graduate Recruitment Survey 2007