What can you expect to earn now and in the future? How well - or badly - teachers are paid in comparison with other professions is decided nationally by seven people, the individuals appointed by the Government to the pay review committee known as the School Teachers' Review Body.
Since the incomes of 400,000 teachers each year depend upon the recommendations of this munificent seven, it is perhaps remarkable their names are unknown in most staffrooms. Their annual report, published every January, is awaited with some trepidation, however.
Before that report appears, the pay review body considers pleas from teacher unions about how much more headteachers and teachers deserve and how far salaries need to be increased to attract more of the right sort of person into the profession.
Meanwhile, local and central government plead poverty with their submissions on how little extra can be afforded.
The review body sifts through all this and, taking account of inflation and the movement of other salaries, recommends the rises it thinks are necessary to "retain, recruit and motivate" teachers.
Usually the Government accepts whatever percentage increase the review body proposes. But on numerous occasions in the past it has deferred its starting date to reduce the immediate additional costs to schools and local authorities.
Unfortunately this also reduces the total pay in your pocket for that year.
Exactly how much you are paid is decided in your school by the governors and usually with the advice of the head. Ordinary classroom teachers are paid on the salary scale (see page 21) which starts at point one (at present, pound;14,658) and effectively finishes at point nine (pound;23,193).
New teachers usually start at the bottom of the scale. Good honours graduates (2:2 or better) start at point two (pound;15,537). By next September these salaries are likely to have been increased (following the review body report) by 1 or 2 per cent.
Heads and governors making an appointment also have the freedom to award up to two additional scale points (three in inner London) if there is a shortage of teachers in that subject or the job is otherwise hard to fill.
So if you find yourself being offered a job as, say, a maths or science teacher, or in an inner city school where there appears to be few other suitable applicants, it may be worth you asking if there is any possibility of additional points for what is officially referred to as "recruitment or retention".
Teachers in special schools are entitled to a further point as are teachers who wholly or mainly teach children with special needs in an ordinary school.
If you have previous work experience that is relevant to teaching, if, say, you have worked as a classroom assistant or in an industry allied to your subject, you might also find your new school prepared to recognise some or all of this in the form of extra pay.
Practices vary and such payments are at the discretion of those making the appointment, but one point for every three years in other work judged to be relevant to your teaching is not uncommon.
Provided your work is satisfactory, you can expect to receive at least one additional scale point every September until you reach point nine on the scale. These "experience" increases or increments will be in addition to the pay review body's cost of living rises which increase the whole scale every year.
So, if you are a good honours graduate you can expect to be on point nine after seven years teaching. At present your pay at that level would be pound;23,193 but in seven years inflation will have increased that.
You can also receive additional points which take you beyond point nine. If you take on additional responsibilities the governors of your school can award you up to five extra points. These are usually for work over and above your normal teaching load.
Heads of department in secondary schools frequently receive two or three extra points and primary teachers may get one or two points for taking on responsibility for developing a curriculum subject in their school. Only a few senior teachers get five points. Responsibility points may be temporary or permanent.
Your governors can also award up to three extra points for excellent performance in your classroom teaching and other professional duties. Such awards are effectively annual since they have to be reviewed every September. Half points are also possible for excellence and for responsibility, recruitment and retention or relevant experience other than teaching.
Not many governing bodies do in fact make excellence awards to teachers. This is because they simply cannot afford to or because they are unsure of the criteria they should apply or because they fear this would create divisions in the staffroom.
That, however, means that the only way good teachers can earn more is to take on additional responsibilities out of the classroom, with the result that the best teachers are diverted into administration or management.
In theory classroom teachers can earn up to pound;37,041 with maximum additional points. In practice there are virtually no teachers on scale point 17 and only four in a 1,000 are above 14 (pound;32,460).
To make good classroom teaching a more attractive career option, the Government has announced a scheme from next year which will enable teachers who have reached scale point nine to apply to cross a pay "threshold" to join a new scale. This would provide an immediate increase of pound;2,000 a year and open up the possibilities of salaries of pound;35,000 for good classroom teaching.
In order to cross that threshold, however, teachers have to demonstrate that they have kept up with developments in teaching, in their subject and in the use of information and communications technology in schools and ensure their pupils are making progress.
It is the last of these that has proved controversial. Some unions have condemned it as payment by results and divisive, though the Government made clear in its proposals that it would depend upon progress against targets agreed by the school and appropriate to that particular class or school. The results produced by teachers of children with special needs, poor skills or in deprived areas would not be compared with those teaching in more favourable circumstances.
How the Government will ensure the funding is available for all teachers who cross the threshold has yet to be made clear. This is important, especially in small schools with experienced staffs. Governors will not have the discretion to withhold threshold payments, as they do with excellence awards.
But if a school could no longer afford to employ all its teachers because they had all become too highly paid, governors would have to declare some of them redundant in order to employ cheaper ones.
NEW DEAL FOR ADVANCED SKILLS TEACHERS
This is a new grade of teacher created to provide a more attractive career path for those who want to remain in the classroom rather than go into management and administration.
Advanced skills teachers are leading professionals - many of whom have already been heads of department - who are expected to exemplify good practice and spread it beyond their schools. They may be involved in induction of new teachers, the in-service or initial training of others or recruited to help turn around failing schools. They have their own 27-point pay scale rising from pound;26,082 to pound;41,607.
Where an AST is appointed on that scale, pay is decided by the governors, taking account of:
* the nature of the work to be undertaken including work with teachers from other schools;
* the challenges to be tackled; u the professional competencies required of the postholder;
* recruitment considerations.
Movement up the scale depends on performance against agreed targets.
MORE FOR LONDONERS
The streets may not be paved with gold but to offset the additional living costs, teaching in inner London schools attracts an additional allowance of pound;2,241 a year.
Teachers employed in outer London boroughs receive an additional pound;1,476. And in certain areas of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex there is a fringe area payment of pound;573 a year.