PRIVATE medical cover, a company car and big bonuses for hitting targets have long been standard perks for senior managers in industry. But similar rewards - with salaries to match - are now needed to persuade successful heads to take on schools in very difficult circumstances, according to the National Association of Head Teachers.
The association has proposed a new model that reflects the personal risk involved in trying to turn a problem school around. It envisages basic salaries of pound;100,000 to pound;120,000 for headteachers in the largest secondary schools, and of pound;65,000 to pound;85,000 for primary and special school heads.
In a paper published last week, the NAHT also called for bonuses linked to milestones in a school's improvement, with a final bonus to reward success at the end of a head's first contract term. The association believes that this would need to be for a period of five years, considering the time it takes to revive a struggling school.
The NAHT's pay proposals are not as over-ambitious as they might have seemed even a few months ago. Last term, Alastair Falk was offered a pay and benefits package worth pound;120,000 to head the new West London Academy in Ealing.
Other city academies are also offering six-figure salaries, while the pay award announced earlier this month means that the top salary for the headteacher of a school covered by the teachers' pay and conditions document will be increased to pound;94,098 in inner London and to pound;88,155 for schools outside the capital.
Stantonbury Campus in Milton Keynes, one of the largest community schools in the country, which recently advertised in The TES for a headteacher, was probably the first outside London to offer a salary of "circa pound;100,000".
Primary headteachers' pay is also rising in recruitment trouble-spots, where money does appear to talk. When two new primary schools in Waltham Forest advertised headteacher posts at salaries of up to pound;72,444 last term, they received three times the usual number of applications for schools in the north-east London borough.
"We attracted a much bigger and stronger field of candidates than we have with other headships and we appointed two really good heads first time round," said Eleanor Schooling, of EduAction, the private company that runs school services in the borough.
Headteachers' salaries could receive a new boost once schools start federating under a single governing body - a power that comes into force next September in England and a year later in Wales.
"If pound;100,000-pound;120,000 is an appropriate salary to get a good head into a very challenging secondary school, and pound;65,000-pound;85,000 into a primary, then if you are getting someone to run a group of schools, it could be even more," said NAHT general secretary David Hart.
In its recent report, the School Teachers' Review Body accepted the NAHT's argument that basing headteachers' pay on the aggregated numbers of pupils in a federation of schools would be too crude.
"The headteacher may not have the detailed responsibilities for each child and each teacher in the federated schools that the headteacher of each individual school will have. Nor will the duties of headteachers of federations be similar from federation to federation," the report said. But the review body decided not to recommend changes to the pay system until it had a clearer picture of how federations were developing.
Where embryonic federations are already beginning to emerge, it is far from clear whether they will be led by the chief executive-style heads the Government favours. In Bradford, for example, all 28 secondary schools have agreed to work in federations which will include further education colleges and work-based training providers. Each grouping will probably have a co-ordinator, as opposed to a chief executive.
Headteachers who have already taken over the running of more than one school emphasise that they see themselves as "facilitators", rather than chief executives or "super heads", a label that appears to be universally loathed.
Barbara Fitzsimmons, head of Haseltine primary school in Lewisham, south London, who is currently also leading a neighbouring school that is in special measures, said: "It's not about being a super head but about having two super teams and how you can turn those teams into one bigger, even more super team."