The two largest teaching unions have called on the Government to reopen discussions about pay increases for 2007 if ministers fail to hold down inflation.
Recent gains in teachers' pay could be undermined if inflation is higher than the promised 2.5 per cent salary increase, the National Union of Teachers and NASUWT warned. They said rising inflation would damage recruitment and retention and reduce teachers' living standards unless their pay increased to compensate.
The NUT also issued a veiled threat of legal action over proposals to link teachers' pay to their professional development.
Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, announced last month that teachers'
pay would increase by 2.5 per cent in 2006 and by the same amount in 2007.
The NASUWT was the only one of the big three classroom unions to welcome the deal as an above-inflation increase. The NUT described it as a pay freeze.
In its report, the School Teachers' Review Body promised to look again at the award if inflation rises above 3.25 per cent or below 1.75 per cent for a sustained period. The NASUWT wants a lower level of inflation to trigger a review of the pay award and has called for negotiations between the Government and its social partners to agree this. These include employers, the NASUWT, ATL and Association of School and College leaders but the NUT and National Association of Head Teachers are barred from discussions.
Headline inflation at the time of the award was 2.5 per cent, although it has fallen to 2.2 per cent. The Government's preferred measure of inflation, the consumer price index is at 2 per cent - equal to its target.
Most independent forecasters expect the Government's preferred measure to be close to its target in 2007 but three of 21 forecasts cited by the Bank of England said it would be above 2.5 per cent.
The NUT said 2.5 per cent for teachers compared unfavourably with the latest 3 per cent award for police and the 4.4 per cent rise in average earnings forecast by Income Data Services for the latter half of 2006. It said: "(This) will do nothing to improve the competitiveness of teachers'
pay compared to other professions."