Market forces are dictating teachers' pay as never before, with teachers whose skills are in short supply earning record amounts.
The 2006 TES pay survey shows heads of departments in maths and the sciences, especially in hard-to-fill London schools, typically earn pound;9,000 more than colleagues heading history and language departments outside the capital.
Though a national pay award still dictates teachers' base salaries, schools are using teaching and learning responsibility payments or excellent teacher pay scales to attract and retain key teachers.
Headteachers of bigger primary schools are also earning more, but the most dramatic increases since the 2004 survey are believed to be at academies.
Though academies have fewer obligations to transparency than other schools, surveys of job advertisements suggest that most academy principals are now being paid six figures. In London, a pound;110,000 salary package is typical, with some principals estimated to be earning up to pound;130,000 when sponsors' "allowances" are included.
The other new high-fliers are the chief executives of school federations, such as Sir Dexter Hutt at Ninestiles Federation in Birmingham, and Dame Dela Smith at Darlington Education Village. With the Department for Education and Skills encouraging more successful schools to adopt or take over struggling schools, the sky could be the limit for savvy bosses.
Political nous is increasingly a criterion for the big pay packages.
Federation chief executives spend little time in the classroom, but great deals of time negotiating with central and local government.
Sir Dexter, who earned pound;131,000 last year, said he worked 75 hours a week on average in a role that involved political negotiations and strategic planning far beyond that traditionally done by school heads. He said pay packages like his were comparatively good for the public sector:
"Private sector salaries are still a lot higher. I think people come into the public sector because they want to make a difference."
Teachers salaries have risen faster than the national average and more steeply than comparable professions like nursing, especially over the past 10 years.
In central government, eight ministers and under-secretaries, led by Alan Johnson at Whitehall and Jane Davidson in Wales, are earning between Pounds 3,000 and pound;6,000 more than their predecessors were in 2004.
Still top of the schools' rich list, as he was in 2004, is Ken Boston, chief executive of them Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, who earns roughly pound;235,000.
The General Teaching Council for England this week began advertising for a new chief executive. It asks for "a politically astute innovator" who has "confidence and flair when influencing the media and Government". That person will be paid up to pound;140,000, a big increase on the pound;123,000 paid to outgoing chief executive Carol Adams.
For classroom teachers, the potential for continued income rises may be more limited. Analysts suggest that increased efforts to recruit maths and science graduates may soon bear fruit in filling the teaching vacancies, reducing the upward pressure on salaries.
A House of Lords committee this week called for "significantly higher" pay for physics and chemistry teachers to attract them into the profession. But the DfES replied that its programme of pound;9,000 bursaries and pound;5,000 "golden hellos" was beginning to address the shortage.
Trainee teachers census figures published yesterday already show the Government clamping down. After three consecutive years of record high trainee intakes, numbers this year dropped to 39,600.
"As the supply of teachers gets better, pay will drop. I think it is peaking now," said Professor John Howson of Education Data Surveys. While the opportunities may be growing for top salaries in schools, the flip side is the the growing numbers of administrative and teaching assistants, playing critical roles in the classrooms, on much lower pay than teachers.
Unison, representing support staff, said some catering assistants and cleaners working for private contractors could be earning the minimum wage.
When primary heads can earn more than secondaries The fraught relationship between pay and stress is a big factor in the problem of heads' recruitment as their responsibilities and the size of their schools are rapidly increasing.
Some inner-city London primary schools advertising for new heads have offered salaries topping pound;80,000, compared with a typical wage of pound;69,000 for a secondary head in the provinces.
Chris Luck, a primary head, earns pound;55,068, after 26 years in teaching, 12 as a head. He has led the 480-pupil Eastfield school in Enfield, north London, for seven years. He is responsible for everything from educational standards to the pound;1.5 million budget. He works at least 11 hours a day and on weekends and holidays.
"The range of responsibilities is growing. There are fewer people prepared to take on headships because the stress is not worth the money," he said.
Those responsibilities probably were greater in deprived inner city areas, he said. "We are not generating new headteachers. The whole point of being a deputy was to become a head. Now lots of deputies do not think the extra pay is worth the extra stress."
Secondary head Deborah Duncan said she had earned almost as much as deputy at a 1,900-pupil school as she does now as head of 1,100-pupil Horbury school, an 11- to 16-year-old comprehensive in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
Her job was advertised at between pound;60,000 and pound;69,000.
She said: "I deal with such a wide variety of matters. I recently had to deal with a girl who tried to overdose. I spend a lot of time talking to parents and senior officers from the authority. I have a new build going on and occasionally have to take classes.
"You do all these things in one day. You beat yourself up about it. So many stakeholders who want a bit of you."
Mrs Duncan advocated the formation of a regulatory body to set heads' wages according to responsibilities.
Carolyn English Principal designate 16 years' experience Salary: Pounds 110,000?
Carolyn English, 46, is the newly-appointed principal designate of the Pounds 34 million Harris Academy South Norwood, in London.
Her role in setting up the academy before its opening bears more resemblance to that of a high-powered project management consultant than to her original job as a maths teacher. She rarely even sees pupils. She has an office at one school, will inherit pupils and staff of another and is building a third.
The "powerful" moral and financial support of a sponsor was key to her decision to move to an academy. She said: "It's not daunting, it's exciting. But there are times when you are pleased you have got the back-up of a supportive sponsor."
Ms English was appointed just a few months ago, ambitious for the challenge of turning round a struggling school, after previously being a deputy headteacher at a big secondary. The Harris Federation, which is preparing its seventh South London academy, was established by Lord Harris, the carpet baron and Tory donor, who has embraced Tony Blair's academy scheme.
Sharon Moloney Teaching assistant 10 years' experience Salary: Pounds 12,500
Forced last year to pay her entire monthly wage in rent for a damp house with sparking wiring, Sharon Moloney, 32, a learning assistant, could not help questioning why her work was valued so poorly. With 10 years'
experience, the Bristol mother earns pound;12,500 for her four-day-a-week job at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple secondary school.
She said:"My marriage had broken up and I was forced into temporary accommodation. I was in deep financial crisis. Our accommodation was damp and smelt of mould, the carpets were soaking and water leaked into light fittings and electric sockets. My youngest son, who has asthma, was extremely ill."
Now back with her husband, a school caretaker who earns just over Pounds 14,500, Mrs Moloney still struggles to pay for her two sons' school uniforms and feed the family. She is studying for a degree, but does not think she will be able to take time off earning to gain a PGCE.
Mrs Moloney did not blame the schools she and her husband taught at - they paid as much as their funding allowed, she said - but she did question why her 10 years' experience counted for so much less than a newly-qualified teacher on nearly pound;20,000, let alone chief executives such as Ken Boston, who earns pound;235,000 at the QCA.
Paula Roe English teacher 28 years' experience Salary: pound;35,984
Paula Roe, 50, has worked in the profession long enough to appreciate improvements in her pay and the fact that she can now watch her 12-year-old son play football on Sundays, rather than working all weekend.
An English teacher since 1978 at the 1,515-pupil Redhill school in Stourbridge, Mrs Roe loves being in the classroom and has no wish to abandon that for management. But for years, the only way she could get a pay rise was if she took on management responsibilities.
Now she is able to stay in the classroom doing what she does best and earn pound;35,984, including a pound;2,500 teaching and learning responsibility payment. And she no longer needs to spend her evenings and weekends working through myriad administrative tasks.
"I don't think everybody would leap up and down and say 'We've never had it so good'," she said, "but I think more teachers appreciate that they now have conditions that allow them to concentrate on their teaching."