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Unqualified and overseas teachers could sue under equal pay laws if their salaries are not increased, the Government has admitted, writes Jonathan Milne.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, is proposing a pound;3.3 million a year boost to their pay to avoid the "unsatisfactory alternative" of risking legal action.

The Department for Education and Skills, with employers and teachers'

unions, has agreed that their pay scale should be adjusted in the wake of a European Court of Justice ruling on equal pay.

Unqualified teachers include overseas teachers, predominantly from Australia and New Zealand, who are qualified in their own countries, and specialist instructors.

Their numbers quadrupled from 4,500 in 1994 to 17,970 last year - one in 25 teachers - with particularly high numbers filling shortages in London schools.

The unqualified teachers' pay scale runs from pound;14,391 to pound;22,761, outside London. Qualified teachers start on pound;19,641.

The NUT argued overseas qualified teachers, who are working while applying for qualified teacher status, should be paid as qualified staff.

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