Gove plans to cap heads' pay to PM's, September
Headteachers' pay packets could be capped to that of the Prime Minister as early as September 2011 if the Education Secretary has his way, new documents show.
Michael Gove has written to the body that advises him on teachers' wages asking it to consider setting limits "in line with the prime minister's salary".
The news that he is persisting with the cap will come as a shock to some, as he gave the impression of abandoning the matter in August.
Headteachers' associations have said that limiting pay to an "arbitrary" figure is inappropriate.
In July, Mr Gove tried to fast-track the pay cap to this September by bypassing the review body, prompting outrage from unions, which demanded a full consultation.
The School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) is now due to report back on the issue in the spring, and will advise the Government whether to go ahead with a cap.
However, unions have welcomed Mr Gove's additional request for the body to review leadership pay beyond the top of the pay scale.
Mr Gove has asked it to recognise the "different challenges associated with different posts and the need to incentivise the best heads to take on the most challenging jobs".
It is as yet unclear if the STRB will recommend capping heads' pay to the pound;142,500 received by prime minister David Cameron, but the final decision will be down to the education secretary himself.
STRB chairman Dr Anne Wright has already expressed concerns about the issue, saying a cap could even lead to "upward pay drift" rather than bringing salaries down.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "I have not got a problem with setting an upper limit, but don't think the prime minister's salary is an appropriate comparator."
He added that there needed to be "flexibility" in pay for the top jobs to take account of the widening variety and size of leadership roles, but more transparency and clarity was required on what governors could pay.
Mr Gove has also asked the STRB to consider how it will reward the lowest- paid workers, such as unqualified teachers, during the forthcoming two- year pay-freeze. The Treasury has already recommended a minimum payment of pound;250 for all public sector workers earning pound;21,000 or less.
In his letter, Mr Gove said he will shortly want the STRB to consider how to introduce "greater freedoms and flexibilities" to teachers' pay.
The issue is expected to inflame the relationship between the Government and unions, who want to hold on to a strict national pay framework. Academies already have more freedom over pay, although many stick to the established national pay scales.
Martin Freedman, head of pay at teachers' union ATL, said there seemed to be a contradiction between Mr Gove being keen to set limits on headteachers' pay while freeing up what schools could pay teachers.
"No one else is saying there is a need to increase flexibility. He seems obsessed with saying teacher's pay is too rigid," Mr Freedman added.
MEDIA OUTRAGE: HIGH EARNERS HIT THE HEADLINES
Michael Gove's decision to pursue the pay cap comes just months after a flurry of headlines about heads' inflated pay packets.
Mark Elms, head of Tidemill Primary School in Deptford, south-east London, was pursued by news reporters on his school's steps last July when it was revealed he earned pound;279,230 in 20092010, including pension benefits and payments for extra work.
Jacqueline Valin, executive head of Southfields Community College in Wandsworth, south-west London, was also criticised for earning pound;226,381 including pension last year.
Mick Brookes, former leader of heads' union the NAHT, defended highly paid heads, saying they deserved the salaries of top footballers and pop stars.
- Original headline: Gove plans to cap heads' pay to the PM's as early as September