Education authorities look set to test the resolve of both the Secretary of State and the unions next Tuesday during negotiations on the teachers' 4.7 per cent pay claim.
The authorities want to explore a new grade of "super-teachers" floated by Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar in a speech last month.
Mr Dewar said that the existing promoted post structure "often reward good teachers by taking them out of the classroom".
But to pay good teachers more to stay in the classroom the authorities will have to overcome union scepticism in the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee.
The management side is nonetheless likely to suggest opening talks on this later in the year, following the report of the millennium review of education by the authorities and unions.