COUNCILS in Wales are to get an extra pound;18.7 million to ensure that some 14,500 senior staff get pound;1,000 merit-related rises. The deal for experienced Welsh teachers is even better than the one recently agreed in England.
All senior Welsh teachers who meet the performance criteria will get pay rises compared with eight out of 10 of their English peers.
Welsh education authorities will get the extra cash to fund pay rises for senior teachers as a special grant for the year 2002-3.
It is enough to fund pound;1,000 rises for everyone on the upper pay spine. It will also leave pound;4.2m to boost the pay packets of teachers on the leadership scale.
Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly minister for education and lifelong learning, said: "This will allow schools to be funded, so that ... headteachers and governing bodies do not hold back staff from progressing under the new arrangements simply for financial reasons."
In April, headteachers in England won extra money to fund merit pay for their senior teachers. Welsh school leaders had been pressing for a similar settlement. The announcement will avert a strike by Welsh heads. The National Association of Head Teachers in Wales had said that it would ballot for a strike as part of its campaign to win extra funds for teachers on the upper pay spine.
Such a strike would have been a historic first for NAHT Cymru - it has never taken action independently of its English counterpart.
"We will consult with our members, but we suspect they will be happy with the provisions made by the Assembly," said Karl Davies, director of NAHT Cymru.
"It's what we were asking for, so we've suspended our ballot on industrial action.
"The minister realised that in this particular case it would have been very, very difficult to argue against us - people saw the strength of our argument."
Mr Davies also welcomed the news that there would be a further review of school funding in the autumn, which would highlight any shortfalls or anomalies in the new grant allocation.
Gethin Lewis, Welsh secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:"I can only congratulate the Assembly. Jane Davidson listened to the unions and managed to get additional funding. I hope it will be the start of a demand-led funding formula."