Countdown to disaster", say some. Others see a "once in a lifetime opportunity" for heads to take a fresh look at who does what in their school.
Every school in England and Wales will have to overhaul its staffing structures by the end of the year. There are bound to be some losers and classroom teachers' unions are preparing to fight for the best deal for their members. Heads - who also have to provide half a day a week for teachers for marking and lesson preparation and get to grips with Ofsted's new inspection regime - are to going to be very busy for the rest of 2005.
The Government's decision to replace management allowances with teaching and learning responsibility payments (TLRs) is at the centre of the review process.
The case for reforming allowances was made in a 2003 Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, commissioned by the School Teachers' Review Body. It said schools were abusing the system by paying allowances for administrative rather than management responsibilities, for historic responsibilities and to recruit and keep staff.
TLRs, like management allowances, will be paid for roles such as heading a department, key stage or possibly more pastoral work such as head of year.
The difference, as their name suggests, is that these duties must be focused on teaching and learning.
So why are so many heads worried? And why is it a "countdown to disaster" in the words of Nigel Middleton, a director of the pay and conditions consultancy Head Support who has briefed around 1,200 heads?
First, schools are running out of time. Heads and governors are expected to tear everything up, start again with a blank sheet of paper and if necessary conduct a radical restructuring.
That means re-examining the role of every teacher and support staff member.
It means deciding whether to have deputy or assistant heads, excellent teachers or advanced skilled teachers and whether other teachers should be paid TLRs and if so how much.
And it means deciding whether they can afford it. Time is tight. To finalise a new structure by the end of December schools will have to begin formal consultation at the start of October. The rewards and incentives group (RIG) which devised the plan, made up of government, union and employers' representatives, claims schools will have enough time if they follow the timetable it has laid out.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, who is no longer part of RIG, Mr Middleton and perhaps most significantly the implementation review unit (a panel of heads appointed by government to monitor the impact of its policies) have urged the Government to extend the deadline.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, a RIG member who sees the process as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, admits his members view the timetable as tight. "But," he said, "the guidance was produced before the end of May leaving seven months before the end of the year which I think is a considerable period and should be adequate."
That may be true if things run smoothly. But there will be numerous opportunities for things to go wrong in what is a minefield for the unsuspecting head.
Those expecting to be able to simply transfer teachers receiving management allowances on to TLRs can think again. The statutory guidance clearly states the process must not simply be an assimilation exercise from one scheme to the other.
Heads would find such a transfer impossible as TLRs have been designed so that their values do not match those of the old management allowances (see box, above right).
The higher minimum value of TLRs presents a further problem. A large secondary hoping to give all teachers on management allowances a TLR could see a significant rise in its pay bill.
That is exactly the opposite of what should be happening. Back in January 2004 the RIG partners made an earlier deal to allow a substantial majority of eligible teachers to progress on to level three of the upper pay scale.
Under that agreement part of the funding for UPS3 was supposed to come from savings schools made by reducing the number of management allowances. That thinking is underlined in the September 2004 RIG agreement on TLRs, which says they are expected to cost less than the old management allowance system.
In other words, schools have a straight choice. Either they risk creating budget problems for themselves or some teachers will have to lose out.
Old management allowances will be protected for a maximum of three years.
But the safeguarding could effectively disappear in eight months because it only protects a teacher's overall salary. Take, for example, a teacher now on one management allowance point worth pound;1,638, who does not receive a TLR payment under the new system in January. The old allowance should be protected until December 2008, but if the teacher progresses from level three to four of the main pay scale in September 2006 the rise, worth at least pound;1,719, would be bigger than the old allowance, cancelling out the safeguarding.
More worryingly, Mr Middleton believes heads could find themselves in employment tribunals. If a primary head decides to give a TLR to the school's literacy co-ordinator but not the school's history co-ordinator then they could be open to a claim for constructive dismissal unless they can justify their decision. Then there is the issue of who will cover extra responsibilities that will not qualify for payments under the strict new TLR criteria.
Many primary heads will struggle to employ more support staff and are wondering how they will be able to persuade a teacher to take on roles such as ICT co-ordinator without more money. Many heads of small departments currently receiving at least three management points will automatically lose out because they will not be managing the "significant" number of people necessary for a TLR1. Teachers in such positions will turn to their unions and in the end that could prove to be heads' biggest headache.
The National Union of Teachers which did not sign the deal is, unsurprisingly, threatening strike action if its members lose out. But Mr Hart claims that local officials from the NASUWT and Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which did sign up, are taking equally trenchant positions because they are sensitive to accusations that they have "sold their members down the river".
Their leaders claim this is sour grapes from Mr Hart because he has not been a member of RIG since his union withdrew from the workforce agreement.
Whatever the truth, the battle lines are being drawn and for many heads it looks like being a long haul.
Kenny Frederick 27
SPOT THE DIFFERENCES
Management allowances are payable at five levels - pound;1,638, pound;3,312, pound;5,688, pound;7,833 and pound;10,572. TLRs have been designed with different values making a simple transfer between the two impossible.
Schools can award a TLR2 worth pound;2,250-pound;5,500 or, if a teacher has line management responsibility for a significant number of people, a TLR1 worth between pound;6,500-pound;11,000.
It is up to schools to decide how much a TLR should be worth, but if they are paying them at different values then there must be a minimum pound;1,500 difference between each.
This potentially offers a maximum of three TLR2s at, say, pound;2,250, Pounds 3,750 and pound;5,500 and four TLR1s at, say, pound;6,500, pound;8,000, pound;9,500 and pound;11,000.