TEACHER trade union membership has soared to its highest level in more than 20 years, official figures will reveal next month.
The number of people officially registered with the six associations covering England increased by 32,889 - or 4 per cent - last year to 837,769.
The statistics from the Certification Office for Trade Unions and Employers' Associations come against the background of a 9,400 rise in the number of teachers in English schools last year.
Opponents of the much-touted merger between the three largest unions are likely to argue that the latest figures illustrate that the rival associations have a bright future in their current form.
The totals provide particularly good news for the biggest union, the National Union of Teachers, which saw its membership climb by 28,000 to 314,174.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers also recorded an increase, its membership rising more than 8,000 from 178,697 to 186,774.
Both these totals are the highest since union records began in their current form in the 1970s.
But the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers lost more than 2,000 members, from 255,768 to 253,584, while the Professional Association of Teachers shrank from 34,787 to 33,081.
Among headteachers' unions, 2001 was a better year for the Secondary Heads'
Association than the National Association of Head Teachers. SHA gained 621 members, while the NAHT lost 152.
However, the latest statistics should be treated with some caution, as they include retired teachers and trainee students, who do not pay union fees and who are free to join as many associations as they like.
The NASUWT gained 16,576 fee-paying members compared with 11,479 for the NUT and 1,434 for the ATL.
Despite the NUT's success, its general secretary Doug McAvoy still trails his ATL counterpart Peter Smith by nearly pound;7,000 in the pay stakes.
Benefits paid to union general secretaries include pensions and a car.
SALARIES AND MEMBERSHIP 2001
NUT: General secretary salary plus benefits: pound;86,650 plus pound;15,767 Membership: 314,174
NASUWT: General secretary salary plus benefits: 75,381 plus pound;21,522 Membership: 253,584
ATL: General secretary salary plus benefits: pound;93,390 plus pound;22,224 Membership: 186,774
PAT: General secretary salary plus benefits: pound;39,083* plus pound;4,204 Membership: 33,081
NAHT: General secretary salary plus benefits: pound;92,385 plus pound;8,684 Membership: 40,003
SHA: General secretary salary plus benefits: pound;68,550 plus pound;9,104 Membership: 10,153
Membership figures include retired and student members, benefits include pension and car
*Pay rate for 9.5 months - position vacant for 2.5 months