Last Friday's meeting of the Educational Institute of Scotland's executive council, whose dominance ensures its policy becomes that of all the unions, backed a salary strategy calling for a claim "of at least the RPI (retail price index)".
The union has not yet put a figure on its demands, in line with previous practice at this stage, but the most recent RPI for last October showed prices increasing by 2.6 per cent on the previous year.
The EIS adds, however, that such a claim - the first since the three-year salary package was agreed as part of the teachers' settlement - will not be enough if more teachers are to be recruited and persuaded to stay in the profession.
It therefore expects a "no-strings" offer from the education authorities to keep pace with the earnings of other groups. The index of average earnings last September showed an increase of 3.7 per cent, though this rose to 5.6 per cent in the public sector.
The average starting salary for first degree graduates in the UK last year is estimated at pound;20,189 which is higher than the pound;18,000 paid to probationer teachers in Scotland. The average overall salary in the UK is pound;25,170, slightly below point four on the main teachers' pay scale.
Teachers in England and Wales were awarded 2.5 per cent by their pay review body for 2004-05.
The EIS's main objective is to maintain the momentum established by the post-McCrone agreement. "Recruitment and retention will be key issues over the next few years," its paper states. "The reduction of class contact time in 2004 and 2006 will require the employment of additional teaching staff "The demographic downturn and the impact on the graduate pool in conjunction with the age profile of current teachers will require teaching to remain an attractive career. The impact of student loans and debt will create an uncertain picture for graduate recruitment. Competitive starting salaries and salary progression will be important factors in graduate recruitment."