The Coalition is paving the way to link teachers' salaries to their performance in the classroom, experts warned this week.
On Monday, the Department for Education unveiled its business plan for the next four years, which includes plans to "revise teacher performance management regulations".
The document also included extremely controversial proposals to publish teachers' pay, qualifications and sick-leave records on a school-by-school basis so they can be included in league tables.
But it is the move to change teachers' performance management regime that could prove most controversial as it coincides with education secretary Michael Gove's plans to rethink the existing teachers' pay and conditions document.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, questioned whether linking teachers' salaries to performance would work.
"(Linking pay to performance) certainly seems to be the way the Government is going," Mr Hobby said. "They are creating flexibility on pay and conditions, which creates opportunities for performance-related pay. I would be surprised if they didn't.
"I have no problem with performance-related pay, but there is little evidence to show it raises standards when used in education; every piece of evidence to come out of the US is quite confident in that respect."
Mr Hobby added: "But I think people are more interested in having underperformance tackled rather than being rewarded for good performance.
"What really annoys people is when someone is working hard but the person next to them is lazy and not pulling their weight but is paid the same."
John Bangs, visiting professor at London University's Institute of Education, and former NUT head of education, agreed.
"I would welcome a review of the teacher standards, but there is absolutely no evidence that performance-related pay raises standards. It is something the Coalition has been eager to do, and I believe it will be in the white paper."
However, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the reforms would make little difference, arguing that performance-related pay has always existed.
"What the Government is trying to do here is simplify it," Mr Lightman said. "At the moment the pay system is very confusing for teachers and for heads and the Department intends to rectify that."
The move comes as the DfE revealed plans this week to publish teachers' salaries, qualifications and absence records at every school across the country.
Prime minister David Cameron announced the plans as part of his wider pledge to make central government more transparent, and to move power away from Whitehall.
The decision to make public teachers' qualifications, salaries, absence rates and the number of full-time and part-time staff was condemned by teaching unions.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the proposals demonstrated the "deep-rooted contempt this Coalition government has for teachers".
She added: "The negative attitudes which are clearly underpinning this proposal will leave a nasty taste in the mouth of a hard-working and dedicated profession.
"To focus on sickness absence in this way merely gives the green light to employers to harass and pressurise sick teachers back into work or force them out of the profession."
'INNOCUOUS'? NOT TO THE UNIONS. BUT WHAT DID THEY EXPECT?
On Monday, David Cameron announced that each government department would publish annual business plans to open up the decision-making to the public and "shift power" from Whitehall to the people.
In his speech, the prime minister described the plans as "innocuous-looking documents" that would "transform our country".
And despite every Whitehall department publishing its business case, it was the Department for Education's plan that attracted most headlines. And for unions in particular, it was anything but innocuous.
The DfE's business plan gave a flavour of what we should expect from the education white paper, due to be published later this month, and it is likely to cause a great deal of discontent among teachers' leaders this winter.
Chief among the proposals were plans to publish every teacher's qualifications, salary and even the amount of sick days taken (on a school-wide basis rather than individually) in a bid to create a more transparent system of accountability.
The unintended consequences of the measures are what unions fear most, namely concerns that headteachers could hire small numbers of expensive teachers with postgraduate or masters degrees, filling other posts with cheaper support staff at the expense of teachers with undergraduate-level qualifications.
But perhaps even more incendiary is the Department's intention to revise teachers' pay and conditions, giving heads more "flexibility" over teachers' pay packets.
Abolishing the ability to negotiate teachers' pay on a national level, and handing the power to heads at a local level, will seriously weaken the teaching unions' power.
The move opens the door to heads offering pay on a performance-related basis, a move that is fundamentally opposed by the unions.
But to have expected anything else from education secretary Michael Gove would have been folly on their part. The business case and the glimpse it provides into the impending white paper is a blueprint for the Conservatives' reform programme.
At its heart is the desire to devolve power to headteachers, shifting responsibility from central government back into the hands of the decision-makers. And while Mr Gove's business plan may send the unions into meltdown, his proposals represent an adherence to traditional Conservative policy.
Did anyone really expect anything else?
FRESH TESTS ON EARLY PROGRESS
In the Department for Education's business case released on Monday, it was announced that a pilot assessment will be trialled to test the reading progress of six-year-olds.
The Department also intends to introduce a measure that will judge a pupil's readiness to progress from early years to primary school, and from primary to secondary school on the "three Rs".
The business case says a consultation will be launched next month on a new national curriculum, with the new one being presented to schools ready for use by September 2013.
More powers to deal with bad behaviour in schools will be brought forward in legislation in January, and a new Ofsted inspection framework will be ready for December 2011.