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Emma Burstall profiles five cases - based on actual teachers - affected by changes in the pay scales

Generosity adds up to extra points. Heather, 28, spent five years working in industry before deciding she wanted a career change. She completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and was offered a job teaching maths in a large Kent comprehensive school. Because the governors wanted someone young and dynamic, they decided to award Heather two points for her good honours degree and five for every year of other relevant experience, bringing her up to point seven on the salary scale. She will earn Pounds 18,534 a year from December.

Had the governors felt less generous, however, Heather could have started on point two, earning just Pounds 14,001 from December. This figure is higher than last year, however, because the Government has decided to award bigger increases at the lower end of the pay spine to attract new recruits.

Outside experience could be a problem

Andrea, 36, taught in a medium-sized Essex primary school for four years before taking time out to have a family. She worked for several years in marketing before becoming a teacher and, like Heather, was awarded five points for relevant outside experience on top of the two she gained for being a good honours graduate when she got her first job.

The Government has said it will allow teachers moving schools or returning after a break voluntarily to surrender discretionary spine points which they hold for experience outside teaching. Andrea now wants to return to work after four years, but fears that instead of being entitled to come back at point nine, heads will ask her to surrender her experience points and return at point five. This means she would lose around Pounds 12,000 over four years.

Primary head feels undervalued

Philip, 44, is headteacher of a small primary school in rural Northumberland. He is on point 10 of the pay scale and will be paid Pounds 28,191 from December, while the head at the secondary school nearby will get nearly Pounds 20,000 more.

Philip feels overworked and undervalued, but is reluctant to appeal to the governors for more money because his school is strapped for cash and is suffering from falling rolls. And he is well aware that many of his staff are struggling financially. He also knows that secondary heads are more likely to get pay rises than primary heads and doubts he would win an appeal.

Philip has two teenage children by his first wife. He recently remarried and now has two families to support. Neither his first nor his current wife work.

Half-points may bring lower rates

Margaret, 40, has been teaching English for 15 years at a large, mixed comprehensive in Manchester which has recently become grant-maintained. She is on a point nine basic salary and will earn Pounds 20,901 in December.

She knows the post of head of the English department is likely to become vacant in the next year, but suspects the head may use the new half-points system to reduce the amount teachers are awarded for extra responsibilities. When the post is advertised, she believes it will only carry one and a half responsibility points instead of two.

Margaret would like the job, but is not sure she will apply as it would involve much more work for only a little extra cash. She is a theatre enthusiast but feels the additional work would make it impossible to fit in any more visits to plays.

Downshifting can mean less stress

Barry, 45, has been teaching for 20 years and is tired of all the changes in education. A few months ago, he decided to give up being head of maths at a large comprehensive in Yorkshire, for which he received five responsibility points, and take over the smaller computer department, which carries only three responsibility points.

Although he is now on point 12 of the pay scale, instead of point 14, and will earn Pounds 25,392 in December instead of Pounds 29,247, he feels he made the right decision. At least he no longer has to attend so many after-school meetings, and has some time in the evenings for himself.

His wife is also relieved as their marriage has been under strain recently because of the extra hours Barry has been having to put in because of the national curriculum.

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