The promise of jam tomorrow was a staple of politicians long before Lewis Carroll coined the phrase for the White Queen in 1871.
But few teachers realise that spreading their pay rises has a far from sweet effect on their take-home bread.
One who does is John Read, secretary of the Burton upon Trent branch of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.
He took out his calculator to answer a member's query about the effect of staging the most recent 3.8 per cent pay rise for teachers, a practice that started under the Conservative government three years ago. The results were "astonishing", and Mr Read became determined to raise colleagues' awareness of the shortfall.
In a letter to union general secretary Nigel de Gruchy, subsequently published in the NASUWT's magazine, Mr Read said his members were "shocked" to learn the salary shortfall caused by staging for 1998-99 would be almost double the amount for 1997-98.
Mr Read worked out the figures for three positions on the 18-point pay spine for teachers (see table, below).
He found that at point 2, the usual starting point for a newly-qualified teacher with a second-class degree, a full year's salary for 1998-99 should be pound;15,012. But the cumulative loss because of staging over two years would be pound;264.
Mr Read's own pay - for what he describes as a "middle management" post at de Ferrers High School, an 11-18 comprehensive in Horninglow, Burton upon Trent - is at scale point 9. And he shares this point with about one in four teachers, according to the School Teachers Review Body.
The STRB recommends pay rates to the Government, which pays out pound;11.5 billion a year for teachers' salaries. It says almost one teacher in two is on points 9.5 to 14, with salaries from pound;22,251 to pound;30,213. "Very few" are on higher points, while heads and deputies have a separate scale.
At point 9, the cumulative amount lost by staging the pay rise is pound;392, and at point 12 - typical for a head of department with extra responsibilities - the figure is pound;478, or more than pound;9 a week.
These figures do not include the effects of phased rises for 1996-97. Mr Read says: "The cumulative loss will eventually amount to the value of a whole pay round. If Labour is trying to improve teacher morale, this is a bad move."
One consolation might be that staged pay settlements are disliked by the STRB as much as by teachers. In a 1998 report, it noted that its two previous recommended rises had been staged by the Conservatives, and "with the prospect of improved funding, we hope they will in future be implemented in full from the due date".
TUC spokesman Paul Sellers said its officials had met Chief Secretary to the Treasury Alistair Darling in March, but he had refused to rule out staging in future.
"Staging pay rises for teachers and nurses hits morale. We need staff to suggest innovations, whereas this makes them concentrate on pay alone," Mr Sellers says.
Staging will also have a small but noticeable effect on pensions where final-salary schemes fall due in years in which pay rises are phased.
"It's a small real loss, but it's the organisational psychology that is important. Teachers feel besieged," he adds.
RISES THAT LEAVE TEACHERS WANTING
Position on pay scale Point 2 Point 9 Point 12
1998-99 salary should be pound;15,012 pound;22,410 pound;27,225
Actual salary pound;14,838 pound;22,152 pound;26,911
Amount withheld pound;174 pound;258 pound;314
Amount withheld 1997-98 pound;90 pound;134 pound;164
Cumulative loss pound;264 pound;392 pound;478