Public sympathy for a strike will be "non-existent" given the credit crunch, a heads' leader has said.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, made the comments just 10 days before the National Union of Teachers is to ballot 250,000 members on strike action over the pay deal. The ballot lasts from October 6 to November 3.
Dr Dunford said that, as more people struggled to pay bills or lost jobs, strike action would be "even more unpopular" than the last time they took industrial action in April.
"In a period of such severe economic problems . public sympathy for teachers going on strike will be non-existent," he said. "This is because everybody is struggling and they will see there are people a lot worse off than teachers."
One A-level teacher, posting on the TES Connect website, agreed: "I could not fully condone striking at this moment . What would it achieve? Pushing a government that is under the cosh, asking for preferential treatment when others are losing their jobs, is not a good, sensible or supportable action!
"I do not see how we . can push for more money when the country is facing financial meltdown. If the crash does not occur, then maybe!"
Rising fuel bills and mortgages could also mean that some teachers cannot afford to strike this time.
Anna Brooman, a teacher at Filton High School in Bristol, said: "I would say that, in the face of the economic downturn, the strike is even more essential than before. But some colleagues who supported it last time are saying they will not this time, as they don't have the slack in their pay packets."
But she rejected the idea that public opinion would turn against teachers. "During the last strike, there was quite a lot of negative media, but we had a lot of support from parents," she said.
Other teachers said the union should strike "regardless", as it had a duty to support workers. Dave Harvey, NUT executive member for outer London, said the union did not want to single out teachers as a "special case" - pay was an issue for 5 million public sector workers.
"The Government spent more bailing out Northern Rock than the entire teachers' pay bill," he added.
The NUT is expected to ballot members, then consult locally on action, from a one-day national walkout to local co-ordinated action and stop-work meetings.