TEACHERS' leaders have expressed disappointment over this year's inflation-only pay award and warned that it could mean the beginning of the end for national pay agreements.
The award followed ministerial pressure on the School Teachers' Review Body to recommend a small pay rise in order to free up money to cut workload.
Unions who signed the workload agreement described the increase as "pitifully small" but appeared ready to accept it as the price of winning non-contact time for teachers.
By contrast, the National Union of Teachers has denounced the rise which, it says, shows government "contempt" for the profession.
The decision to put teachers in central London on a separate pay scale is seen as the first step towards the break-up of a national pay system.
Education Secretary Charles Clarke said the London scale "marks a prudent first step in the direction of a more localised approach to pay".
The award, which comes into force in April, will increase starting salaries in inner London to pound;21,500 and almost double the cash reward for teachers in the capital who cross the threshold to pound;4,000.
All three big unions oppose local scales, although the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has accepted the London rises because of the urgent need to attract staff to the capital.
However, the London rises may not be enough to prevent a fresh round of strikes. NUT leaders have refused to rule out London strikes while they consider the pay award.
Members of the London East NUT council are pressing the leadership to back strike action in the capital. Alex Kenny, an English teacher at Stepney Green school in Tower Hamlets, has passed the threshold and will gain more than most from the new spine. But, as a local NUT official, feels it will not do enough to retain younger staff: "The union has to ... continue its campaign and look to take further strike action," he said.
Mr Clarke will be disappointed by some review body recommendations. He had wanted a multi-year deal, but this has been delayed until 2004. The body also rejected his proposal to allow federated schools freedom to move off national scales, although it promised to revisit the issue next year. It also noted that increasingly different systems in England and Wales made it hard to make the same recommendations for both countries.
To unions' delight, it also resisted pressure from ministers to toughen the criteria for progression up the post-threshold pay ladder, although Mr Clarke promised to return to the issue. The ATL this week accepted assurances from Mr Clarke that there would be enough funding to let teachers move up the upper spine on merit.
The STRB postponed looking at performance pay for pre-threshold teachers.
It has commissioned independent research into the issue.
REVIEW BODY PROPOSALS
* 2.9 per cent rise for heads and teachers outside London.
* Separate scales for London. Classroom teachers in the capital will start on pound;21,500 and earn up to pound;39,000.
* A 10 per cent rise in outer London and fringe allowances.
* Tougher rules for post-threshold promotion rejected.
* DfES should "adequately fund" progression up the upper pay spine.
* A two- or three-year deal has been put off until next year.
* Heads' role in judging the performance of staff should be strengthened.
* The review body rejected employers' suggestion that it intervene to cut red tape involved in paying General Teaching Council fees.
* Plans to give federated schools more freedom to set pay put on hold.
* STRB has commissioned research on performance pay for junior teachers and reforming management allowances.