PART-TIME teachers who combine work and raising a family are finally set to be paid at the same rates as full-time teachers, more than five years after the European Court of Justice found they were discriminated against.
Women make up 91 per cent of the 93,000 part-time teachers in England and Wales, so they are disproportionately affected by local authorities that pay part-timers poorly or inconsistently.
The School Teachers' Review Body is to report next week to Alan Johnson, Education Secretary, and is expected to advise that part-timers should be paid for the total hours they work, not just for their time in the classroom.
Part-timers would also be included in national provisions on working time, having been excluded in what the review body has described as an anomaly with no satisfactory explanation.
But the Department for Education and Skills, in conjunction with union and employer organisations, is still to calculate how much it will cost the government to fix part-timers' pay in time for the September 2008 pay round.
The department has estimated the increase at not more than 0.23 per cent of the total pay bill, which is equivalent to a pound;46 million increase on this year's pound;20 billion pay budget.
The review body heard evidence that part-timers were consistently required to work longer than their contracts specified.
Some had their work spread through the school timetable, so they were required to be at school all week even when they were not being paid.
Yet, at any time, one in ten teachers in the classroom is a part-timer, making them the fastest-growing group in teaching.
The body is expected to note the gender bias in part-time teaching - the elephant in the room that was not mentioned by government, employers or unions in their submissions on part-timers' pay.
A survey of local authorities, provided as evidence to the review body, showed only one in four was paying part-time teachers proportionately to full-timers, allowing for planning and meeting time as well as classroom time.
The Rewards and Incentives Group, made up of unions, employers and the government, has offered to fully cost the proposal. The group acknowledges that the government cannot commit to funding the pay rise till the funding settlement for education has been announced next year.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said part-timers' pay was an unacceptable gender equality issue that had to be cleaned up.
Barry Fawcett, head of salaries at the National Union of Teachers, and Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, agreed that part-time staff needed a fairer deal.
'I GET GROTTY GROUPS'
Margaret Drummond, a Redbridge modern languages teacher who has taught for 18 years, is leaving her school at the end of term after being refused the head of department post because she was part-time.
She said: "I have been given grotty groups, no room, less training throughout my time here and in other schools.
"In one school, I was not given a proper contract but a series of one-year contracts.
"Because of family commitments I do not want to work full-time, but I feel that it should be illegal to treat part-timers less favourably."