Thousands of science teachers could be in line for a four-figure pay rise if they meet exacting new professional standards, The TES can reveal.
Experienced science teachers who demonstrate a commitment to professional development will be given charter status as a "badge of excellence".
The move follows the Privy Council's decision to award a Royal Charter to the Association for Science Education, which is holding its annual conference in Leeds this week.
The first chartered science teachers are expected to receive the award next year, with insiders suggesting it will soon be linked to higher pay as a way of tackling recruitment and retention problems.
The number of graduates starting science PGCEs fell last year to 2,484, well below the Government's target of 2,879.
Derek Bell, ASE chief executive, said his organisation's Royal Charter offers ministers an opportunity to boost the recruitment of science teachers.
"We would expect that as chartered status for science teachers becomes established it would make a difference to salary and other rewards. In an ideal world all teachers would be paid more for higher quality in this way."
The ASE, rather than the Government, will be responsible for the award of chartered status for science teachers.
But it will be for the Government, advised by the School Teachers' Review Body, to decide whether chartered science teachers will be paid more than their unchartered colleagues.
Mr Bell said those wanting to gain the award would have to demonstrate a commitment to professional development and excellent classroom skills.
Details of the requirements will be published in the spring but Mr Bell suggested it could take applicants two to three years' work. The chartered status would then have to be renewed every five years.
Other subject organisations, including the Mathematics Association, are believed to be looking at gaining a Royal Charter to boost their members'
status, rewards and opportunities.
A report for the Treasury in 2002 by Sir Gareth Roberts, president of Wolfson College, Oxford, called on the Government to increase the pay of maths and science teachers to tackle recruitment problems.
Ministers rejected Sir Gareth's call at the time, however, under pressure from teaching unions, who see the proposal as divisive.
But in September the Government launched a chartered teacher scheme for London teachers which offers pound;1,000 to experienced staff who reach the appropriate standard.
Unlike the new status for science teachers, "chartered" London teacher is conferred by the Government and is not equivalent to chartered status in other professions such as accountancy and engineering.
The Privy Council's website states: "New grants of Royal Charters are these days reserved for eminent professional bodies or charities which have a solid record of achievement."
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "I am not convinced that offering teachers in one subject chartered status is the way to go. The pay system already suffers from incoherence."
A government spokesman said that recent incentives to attract graduates into science teaching were working. On paying science teachers more he said: "Schools can pay any teacher whatever recruitment and retention incentives and benefits they wish.JWe support schools' full use of these pay flexibilities."
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