The teachers at Thorpe St Andrew School in Norwich were understandably nervous as a serious-faced Ian Clayton, the principal, gathered them in the staffroom. The teaching and learning responsibility regime had just been announced, and some senior teachers were bracing themselves to lose management allowances of up to pound;10,500.
The principal stood up: "The new payments are coming in, like it or not,"
he told them. "The status quo is not an option. I would not have designed responsibility payments this way, but they're here, and I will be grasping the restructuring opportunity with both hands."
According to the first analysis, heads have done just that. Mr Clayton has slashed his 1,800-pupil school's pound;270,000 staffing budget, and with the pound;80,000 saved he plans to hire a specialist four-person behavioural support team.
Initial indications were that heads would take the path of least resistance, avoiding a fight with teachers' unions by trying to shoehorn management allowances into the new responsibility payments structure.
Instead, according to a TES survey involving 1,300 schools in 10 local authorities, schools will spend less on the responsibility payments regime than they did on management allowances.
Many senior teachers who received management allowances have lost out in the restructure. But for those who haven't, the sums are attractive.
Research by Education Data Surveys reveals that science, English, maths and social sciences heads of department are being rewarded most under the new system. Pastoral directors, contrary to early fears, are also doing well.
Other traditionally important subjects, such as history, music and geography, are being marginalised, probably because there is no shortage of teachers to head such departments.
The TES survey shows the average responsibility payment for a primary teacher has increased to pound;3,000 this year, compared with an average management allowance of pound;2,400 last year.
They still lag behind their secondary colleagues, whose average management allowance of pound;4,700 last year has been replaced with a pound;5,200 responsibility payment.
Although many schools have not yet implemented the TLR regime - and some are delaying doing so till the December 2008 deadline - early indications are that the total amount being paid has dropped significantly.
Teachers whose responsibility payment is less than their previous management allowance are entitled to have their old payment "safeguarded"
(continued) until the end of 2008. Despite this, four of the 10 councils are paying less in responsibility and safeguard payments than they were last year in management allowances.
That is the trade-off the social partnership unions agreed with the government: less money in top-ups; more money to allow senior teachers to progress to the top of the salary scale.
Back in Norwich, Ian Clayton has embraced the opportunity for, in his words, "fundamental change to the school structure".
He has replaced all 17 heads of department (and 52 management allowances) with six faculty heads and 36 teachers with low-level responsibilities. He has also taken the axe to his leadership team, reducing it from 10 to seven.
Teachers' pastoral responsibilities are gone too. Instead, a former policeman and a social worker are among its pastoral heads.
Such swingeing changes can never be painless. Mr Clayton acknowledged that several senior teaching staff were considering their options after losing department head status and the accompanying allowance.
Instead of large management allowances, some are getting responsibility payments of only pound;2,250. By comparison, the six new heads of faculty will get pound;11,787, boosting their pay packages to more than pound;45,000.
Jonathan Atkin, 35, new head of the maths, IT and music faculty, said he was working over 70 hours per week for his new pay package, but acknowledged the disappointment of those who had done less well from the regime.
"If I hadn't got the job, I know how I would have felt," Mr Atkin said.
The former IT head, who applied unsuccessfully for the job, was now considering other jobs.
"He has to take quite a cut," Mr Clayton acknowledged. "But he has got time to think about it and, if necessary, reassess his career options. At the moment, the reality hasn't sunk in because they've got their protected salaries till the end of 2008."
About one thing Mr Clayton is adamant: "Yes, we've saved money. But we didn't come at it as a money-saving strategy. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put a completely different and innovative structure in place for the school, for the future."
Management Allowances (2005)
Primary average: pound;2,398
Secondary average: pound;4,713
TLR payments (2006)
TLR2: pound;2,306 - pound;5,638
TLR1: pound;6,663 - pound;11,275
Primary average: pound;3,044
Secondary average: pound;5,205