All teachers will have their pay rises capped at a maximum of 1 per cent for two years from 2011, raising the risk of widespread industrial action.
Public sector pay deals will be kept down as the Government attempts to cut record levels of national debt, Chancellor Alistair Darling announced in this week's pre-budget report.
The move has angered teachers' leaders, who have hit back with claims that below-inflation deals will cause serious damage to teacher recruitment and retention. Pension contributions will also be capped.
Teachers will receive a 2.3 per cent increase in September 2010, with the new cap coming into effect from September 2011.
If the Conservatives win the general election, shadow chancellor George Osborne has made clear he will freeze public sector pay for anyone earning more than pound;18,000, apart from the armed forces.
Meanwhile, Mr Darling pledged to deliver real-terms increases in funding for education, with schools to receive a 0.7 per cent annual increase between 2011 and 2013. There will be a 0.9 per cent increase for 16 to 19 year-olds in sixth forms and colleges.
Education is one of just three areas - along with health and policing - where Mr Darling promised to protect front-line services.
However, Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said that teachers had already "borne the brunt" of below-inflation pay rises over the past five years.
"Any erosion of teachers' pay may lead to lower recruitment which is at odds with the world-class education system the Government always talks about," she said.
Ministers should respect any recommendations they receive on pay from the School Teacher Review Body and not "simply set them aside when it suits", she added.
The NUT staged the first national strike over pay for more than 20 years when members walked out in April last year.
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said industrial action among classroom teachers could follow.
"That is one of the considerations," he said. "It is not about holding governments to ransom, but making sure there are sensible pay levels.
"A pay cap ups the ante of industrial action happening. It's an increased risk for sure."
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teacher and Lecturers, said a pay cap was a "too blunt a measure" that would fail to match expected levels of inflation.
The real-terms increases in funding follow a drive by Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, to encourage schools to make efficiency savings. He has said that schools federating could lead to significant savings that could be reinvested.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, welcomed the promise of a real terms funding increase, but said there was "no doubt" that it was a tough settlement.
The pre-budget report came as the body responsible for negotiating teachers' working conditions was thrown into disarray after the NAHT was suspended.
The union has been barred from the social partnership for refusing to sign-up to new criteria governing the appointment of assistant and deputy heads, which Mr Brookes said would leave primary schools without the support they need.
The other partnership members - which includes teaching unions and the Government - are still working out how to respond. A permanent ban for NAHT risks undermining the partnership's influence.
Elsewhere in the pre-budget report, Mr Darling pledged to extend free school meals to 500,000 more primary school pupils who do not currently qualify. The move will lift 50,000 children out of poverty, he said.
The pay of the highest earning headteachers will also come under increased scrutiny after the Chancellor announced that all public sector workers appointed to jobs paying more than pound;150,000 a year will have to be cleared by the Treasury.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said: "This is a tough settlement for schools but the combination of real terms rises in funding for schools and tougher expectations on efficiencies means schools will have the resources to meet the frontline cost pressures they face."