A report by Demos says the primary school is arguably the most important focus of social and civic cohesion. Its success or failure has an even more dramatic effect on the surrounding area than its secondary counterpart.
Ken Worpole, author of Linking Home and School, said: "Once a primary school is perceived to be failing, parents scramble for alternatives and sooner or later 'whoops, there goes the neighbourhood!'PPPYUGGA "This is not so true of secondaries because parents have less loyalty to the local comprehensive and are often happy to send their children to schools further from home or even in neighbouring boroughs."
In March 1998, the average pay in a primary school was pound;20,900 compared to pound;23,250 in a secondary.
Admitting the proposal to pay primary staff more is controversial, Mr Worple said: "Time and time again social policy research leads back to the crucial role that primary schools play in neighbourhood stability and perceived quality of life.
"Yetprimary teachers enjoy the lowest status of all professionals in the education chain."
Along with a pay rise, the report suggests the role of primary teachers should include stronger involvement in local decision-making in areas such as housing and developing community-based learning opportunities."
There is clear evidence in some parts of the UK that house prices and school league table results are linked and buying in "hot spot" areas can add as much as 10 per cent to the value of a home.Creating greater social mix in new neighbourhoods therefore requires joint housing and education policies, the report claims.
However, John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, dismissed the suggestion that primary teachers should receive higher salaries.
He said: "If you are a teacher then you are performing a huge service to society whatever age group you teach.
"Any sensible commentator would steer away from attributing a greater or lesser role to any particular stage of the education system."
"Linking Home and School" by Ken Worpole is available for pound;7.95 from Demos on 020 7401 5330