Confusion surrounds government suggestions that the 1 per cent cap on teachers’ pay could be lifted this autumn.
Hopes were raised that the long-standing cap was set to be scrapped, after a senior Number 10 source briefed reporters that Theresa May accepted voters were "weary" of austerity and was ready to listen to recommendations from the independent bodies that review public sector pay.
Decisions would come in chancellor Philip Hammond's Budget in the autumn, he indicated.
And this morning defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon became the latest in a string of ministers to suggest that the government will have to consider whether to persist with the cap, which is currently due to remain in place until 2019-20.
But the PM's official spokesman later played down suggestions that a review of the cap was in the offing, insisting that "the policy has not changed" - a line which was echoed by the Treasury.
Teaching unions have consistently called for the pay cap to be lifted, blaming it in part for the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.
However, even if the government did lift the public sector pay cap, the effect on teachers will depend on the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).
The STRB told Tes it submitted this year’s report and recommendations in April, and it was waiting for the government's response, which it expected to be published “within the next month or two”.
The government has already submitted its evidence to the STRB, arguing that overall teacher pay rise should be within in the overall 1 per cent pay cap.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, called for the government to lift the public sector pay cap now, and make sure it did not lead to any further financial pressure on schools.
Speaking before the apparent government backtracking, he said: “News that the government is prepared to listen to pay review bodies, rather than impose a blanket 1 per cent cap on teachers’ pay, is very welcome. We look forward to hearing further detail.
“NAHT has been campaigning for an end to the public sector pay cap for school leaders, teachers and staff, which has seen real pay fall behind other professions. We know that in order to recruit and retain high quality staff, pay must be fair.
“Any removal of the pay cap must also see increases fully funded in school budgets. We know budgets are at breaking point, so any additional cost must not be passed on to schools.”