TEACHERS' pay rises should be kept well below the current level of inflation until 2011, ministers have said.
Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, has instructed the School Teachers'
Review Body to recommend a new pay deal to cover September 2008 to August 2011, based on the Government's 2 per cent inflation target.
His letter cites the requirement for "responsibility in all public sector pay settlements" and "the need for education to meet a range of priorities linked to school improvement".
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has been calling for public sector pay to be based on his 2 per cent inflation target since the autumn. But teachers are already angry about ministers' reluctance to reopen the existing 2.5 per cent two-year deal, which has fallen well behind inflation, and will resist any further real-terms pay cuts.
National strike action, calls for 10 per cent rises and motions warning against performance and regional pay are being considered by teaching unions this Easter.
Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This effectively means a pay cut for teachers once again. Headline inflation is running significantly above the 2.5 per cent teachers can expect this autumn and 2 per cent for each of the next three years will compound the problems."
Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT, said her union and others in the Government's social partnership would fight for a pay rise above 2 per cent.
"What the Government doesn't want to do, I assume, is throw away four years of progress," she said.
Structural changes to teachers' pay under New Labour mean the average qualified full-time teachers' salary has risen by 43.7 per cent, from pound;22,790 in 1997 to pound;32,760 in 2005.
Office for National Statistics polls in 2003 and 2006 found that nearly half the public considered teaching to be an attractive career, with pay seen as an increasingly positive factor.
In the past decade, workload and behaviour have eclipsed pay as teachers'
greatest concerns. But the issue that dominated the bitter disputes of the 1980s is now returning to the top of the agenda.
Despite the Chancellor's determination to use wage restraint to "bear down"
on rising inflation, teachers have this year seen the armed forces receive a 3.3 per cent rise, judges 2.4 per cent and GPs have their contracts generously restructured. Only hospital doctors and dentists, senior civil servants and senior military officers have been pinned down to the 2 per cent mark this year.
Police were awarded 3 per cent in November but only after they went to arbitration to challenge the Government's original offer of 2.2 per cent.
Mr Johnson told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Bournemouth: "The indications are that by the end of this year inflation will start to decline, down to 2 per cent for the end of the year."
His letter also signalled the extension of performance-related pay again, telling the review body that pay progression should be linked to "greater challenge for the individual".