Calls are growing for a radical rethink or even the outright abolition of management allowances, which are used to bump up the pay of more than than half of teachers.
But the School Teachers' Review Body said last week that it would be "sensible" to wait for reforms of the way teachers work before any shake-up of such allowances.
Introduced in September 2000, the allowances, which from April 1 will be worth between pound;1,638 and pound;10,572, were meant to go only to staff with significant management responsibilities. But as the Department for Education and Skills admitted, they have failed to achieve this aim.
Review body research has revealed that 62 per cent of secondary, 38 per cent of primary and 45 per cent of special school teachers get management bonuses.
Like the responsibility points they replaced, the allowances are being widely used to recognise good classroom performance or retain teachers.
They are not contributing either to school improvement or allowance holders' own development, says Ian Draper, director of the education consultancy firm Mouchel QLM. "Too often the management post has been a career dead-end, rather than an early step on a leadership pathway," he said.
Mr Draper argues that as the baby-boom generation retires over the next 10 years, both primary and secondary schools will have a unique opportunity to change staffing structures. He envisages an expanded leadership team with two distinct groups: one for strategic leadership and managing people, the other for teaching and learning. Support staff would take over administrative work, while an extended leadership spine, rather than management allowances, would be used to reward the team.
"What that does is create a career structure that allows for progression on the basis of people's performance as leaders, whereas with management allowances, once someone has two points, that's what they have," he said.
Restructuring along these lines would allow teachers to concentrate on their professional responsibilities. But it might also raise problems.
Although most senior staff and allowance-holders could probably take on leading teacher or strategic leadership roles, some might not be capable of either. Putting them on a protected salary until they retire is a possible solution. But Ian Draper says they could also mentor young teachers.
A very different policy is advocated by Martin Johnson, education researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research, and author of a report on teachers' contracts. He believes there is already too much leadership and management in schools and says pay progression should be linked to professional development, rather than management responsibilities.
Calling for the scrapping of management allowances, he added: "You've got to pay for what you really want teachers to do, which is to prepare and teach good lessons and learn about their trade."
Management allowances may not have to be abolished, however. The recent teacher workload agreement means they could simply fade away.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:
"The workload initiative is inevitably going to reduce the number of management allowances because a lot of them are given for tasks which will fall within the job descriptions of support staff from September 2003."
TEAMWORK PAYS OFF
HEADTEACHER Linda Powell says that two principles underpin the radically different management structure adopted by Eastlea community school in Newham. "The first is that the most senior people in the school - the equivalent of deputy heads and assistant heads - are directly responsible for teaching and learning and curriculum development," she said. "The second is that many functions carried out by a senior management team can be done by non-teachers."
Serving one of the most deprived communities in the country, the east London school came out of special measures in November 2000 and has just received a glowing report from the Office for Standards in Education.
Ms Powell believes the management structure introduced in 1999 has contributed to the school's progress. There are now five "learning areas", each led by a director and deputy who are responsible for the curriculum in that area. Science and technology, for example, have been grouped together.
A director and assistant director of commissioning look after links with colleges and community organisations. A corporate services manager, the most senior member of the non-teaching staff, is responsible for site management and staff cover.
Teachers receive management allowances for co-ordinating roles, rather than administrative tasks. Those are handled by support staff who include a full-time administrative officer attached to each learning area.
Eastlea introduced this structure with the help of education action zone funding and the Fresh Start initiative. But Ms Powell believes other schools could do something similar. "It would take them a little bit longer than it took us and it would need some additional funding, but it can be done."