MINISTERS and local authorities are still prepared to fund the most radical modernisation of the teaching profession in a generation by agreeing to a pound;100 million restructuring package that could raise classroom salaries by up to 20 per cent.
Employers, with Scottish Office approval, told unions there is more money to come when the two sides met over two days at a hotel near Falkirk for the most critical talks yet on pay and conditions.
Tabled pay offers that would add 11 per cent to the overall wage bill over three years are merely the prelude to substantial salary hikes if the unions agree to the principles of professional restructuring. In reality, many teachers at the lower end of the pay scale would receive far more.
Salaries for some staff who take on extra duties, agree to additional hours and sign new contracts could rise to more than pound;35,000 in both primaries and secondaries. These are the so-called "superteachers".
But the 18,000 teachers currently at the top of the basic scale could also make substantial gains. They currently earn pound;21,954 and could boost their salaries to more than pound;27,000 within three years, an increase of more than 20 per cent.
Any teacher over a threshold - or "quality gateway" - of pound;23,000 would be subject to a new system of appraisal, partly devised by the General Teaching Council. Employers say it is definitely not line management appraisal and are playing down any performance-related pay factor.
New teachers could start on pound;14,500 and rise quickly to pound;25,500 at the top of the basic grade. A new professional leadership scale in primary and secondary schools with salaries of more than pound;25,500 would offer opportunities for further advance and managerial responsibilities. Principal teachers in secondary would be absorbed in the category as their posts go. Topping the structure is a senior management team.
Employers hope the new scales will be fully in place by March 2000 and will be consolidated with an above-inflation rise in 2001 to keep teachers ahead of the game.
South of the border, ministers have allocated pound;1 billion for restructuring, a sum that equates with pound;100 million in Scotland. All of that will only be available in a "something for something" deal.
Further talks of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee's subcommittee are likely to take place within a fortnight, although the Educational Institute of Scotland, which dominates the union side, has called the opening position "unacceptable".
The union is not convinced that the plans for reorganising schools, particularly secondaries, will work in practice. Abolition of principal teachers, who would be replaced by a "collegiate approach" to curriculum leadership, has yet to be tested, it says.
Pressure on EIS negotiators will be stepped up today (Friday) when the union's executive council meets to consider the proposals. Many members on the left are already stirring for a fight with plans to hold a special general meeting.
On the ground, many teachers will be relieved that holidays will not be touched, despite the employers' demand for an extra 70 hours of teacher input over a year. As predicted, headteachers would have control of a 35-hour working week but staff would still be consulted on how it was broken down.
WHAT TEACHERS HAVE TO DO TO GET THE CASH
Basic professional contract
* A 35-hour working week.
* Parity across sectors of class contact time within 35 hours.
* No other divisions of working week.
* Abolition of absence cover agreements.
* Maximum pupil-teacher ration of 30:1 for all classes from the first year of primary to secondary 2.
Extended professional contract
* All the same conditions - plus an extra 70 working hours per year.
Staff on the professional leadership scale would have to show
* A record of satisfactory staff review.
* Observation of successful classroom practice.
* Professional knowledge in an interview.
* Proven success in raising standards of attainment.