Classroom teachers will miss out on deserved salary increases because their heads are about to make a “dash for cash”, a union fears.
The NASUWT is concerned that new freedoms over heads’ pay due from September will see school governors rubber stamping large wage rises.
It says pay in cash-strapped schools has become a zero sum game and that its members could strike in schools where teachers lose out financially at the expense of their leaders.
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “We’re very concerned that there's going to be a ‘dash for cash’ at the beginning of the Autumn term and it’s not going to be dash for cash for teachers.”
The union also wants the government to force schools to publish their heads’ salaries every year, to open up what it says is a ‘secret garden’.
“Public money should not be changing hands behind closed doors,” Ms Keates told journalists at the union’s annual conference in Birmingham.
“Even people not in the public sector, for example general secretaries, have to publish their salaries. But head teachers in charge of millions and millions of pounds of public money don't have to have their salary on record.”
But heads' leaders say they are already exposed to enough public scrutiny and point out that experienced classroom teachers in London will be paid more than many heads of small primary schools.
The NASUWT is concerned because a deregulation of pay levels already brought in for classroom teachers is about to be extended to school leaders. Ms Keates said that if schools with tight budgets increased heads’ salaries “then teachers are bound to get less”.
“We are preparing ourselves… for what we think is going to be considerable casework in schools and possibly escalation of action at school level where we find that schools have depressed teachers’ salaries for arbitrary reasons but the head teacher's salary is increasing,” she said.
Ravinder Saluja, a delegate from Bristol, told conference that it was already happening: “How many academies or schools with head teachers on inflated salaries have automatic pay progression [for classroom teachers] still?
“How many academies and federations have CEOs with salaries in excess of £200,000 and who do you think is paying for these salaries?”
Data published by the Department for Education earlier this month showed that the number of state school heads in England receiving six-figure salaries has increased by around 29 per cent in the two years since 2011/12.
The figures show that 900 school leaders in England are paid at least £100,000 this year, with some 300 heads being paid £110,000 or more – around three times the salary of the average teacher.
But the government has said that the increases could be explained by more heads taking on federations of schools.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Money is not being diverted from classroom teachers to heads’ salaries. If you look over the last year the rate of increase for teacher and head teacher salaries has been broadly the same.
“There is no evidence at the moment that heads’ salaries are increasing more than the staff they work with.”
However Ms Keates fears that the gap between management and teacher pay in schools is about to increase. She says changes being brought in by the School Teachers' Review Body will allow governors to give heads additional payments with no clear rules about what they should be for.
She said a whole series of reports had shown that governing bodies were not “fit for purpose” yet they were being delegated more power.
Mr Saluja told conference that “automatic pay progression [for classroom teachers] has become a thing of the past”.
Schools were setting their own criteria for salary rises that demanded tougher standards for lessons than Ofsted required,” he said. Some schools were making previously automatic pay rises dependent on teachers running extra-curricular classes, offering regular revision sessions and working late and in their holidays.
Ms Keates added: “Our case work shows more and more teachers who were entitled to pay progression are not getting it.
“Teachers have objectives set under performance management...then head says to them you're not making wider contribution to the school so however well you've worked towards your objectives, you won't be getting pay progression.”
Mr Hobby said: “I am not in favour of publishing individual heads’ salaries because they already have some of the most exposed, scrutinised roles in the public sector and I don’t think we should add any more than that.
“If you were going to go down that line you would also have to publish the salaries of the many classroom teachers who will earn more than some heads.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “It’s essential we have the best people in place to lead our schools if we are to raise standards. That’s why decisions on pay are down to schools so that they can recruit and retain the highest calibre of school leaders. We are also giving schools the freedom to reward classroom teachers who get the best out of their pupils. “We have accepted the recommendations of the School Teachers Review Body to provide clear guidelines around how governing bodies should decide on headteachers' pay.”