TEACHERS could be turned down for pound;1,000 performance pay rises next term because their schools do not have the money, it was claimed this week.
The Association of Heads of Foundation and Aided Schools believes many governing bodies are struggling to afford upper pay spine payments to experienced staff, despite heads' leaders winning extra cash for the awards in the spring.
And the association, which represents 800 mainly former grant-maintained schools, reiterated fears that schools could be taken to court by aggrieved teachers if they fail to come up with the money.
Ministers thought they had solved the difficulties surrounding post-threshold payments for thousands of staff, after coming up with pound;10 million extra for the scheme, in the face of industrial action from the two headteachers' unions.
But Laurence Upton, AHFAS vice-chairman, said that, with many schools facing deficit budgets this year, some governing bodies would find it difficult to pay staff.
Their worries were further compounded, he said, by the fact that schools are not likely to be allocated money to pay for the awards before late next term. Teachers were due to be paid the merit awards in September, though this is now likely to be delayed until after Christmas.
Mr Upton said he knew of one London secondary which was facing a pound;300,000 deficit this year. It was already having to increase class sizes. He said: "They see this as yet another financial burden, which will cost them an extra few thousand a year. They say, 'how can we go ahead, and risk our budget?'
"I think overall that 90 per cent of schools will not have much of a problem. But there are going to be some where heads recommend teachers for pay rises, and the governors just say 'we cannot afford it'.
"There is the risk of schools being taken to employment tribunals by a teacher union over something which is outside their control."
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the Government should give local authorities the ability to top up budgets in schools which ran short of money. If schools were forced to go into deficit to make the payments, unions would take this up with ministers.
He added: "What schools cannot do is deprive teachers of their salaries and pension payments for budgetary reasons. They will have to go into the red if necessary."