Heads of challenging schools have rejected Government plans for a #163;10,000 "golden handcuffs" bonus to help them attract new teachers.
Less than half have chosen to offer the extra financial incentive as a way of recruiting staff, The TES has learnt.
The money - funded equally by the schools and the Department for Children, Schools and Families - would be offered to those taking on jobs in secondaries in the National Challenge programme or those where more than 30 per cent of children qualify for free school meals.
The DCSF offer was open to more than 500 schools and officials predicted it would be used for 6,000 new appointments. But only 230 heads have accepted. The lack of enthusiasm is being blamed on the slow job market caused by the recession. Vacancies are down by 11 per cent.
The DCSF is now working with teaching unions in the Social Partnership to try to find out why the scheme - which runs until March 2011 - was not popular with heads. Those who take the money have to agree to work in the school for three years. It was hoped this would bring stability to challenging secondaries, which often have high staff turnover.
But unions the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and Voice said the payments would be divisive and damage morale if only new recruits are entitled to them.
Heads were also offered money to fund two new "excellent" teachers or advanced skills teachers; 95 per cent took up the offer.
The news comes following the publication of a survey by the Training and Development Agency for Schools which shows that just one in ten teachers and heads would consider working in a challenging school. Those who had chosen to take jobs there said "making a difference" was their motivation rather than money.
TDA bosses say they will continue their work to persuade teachers to work in secondaries in deprived areas. This includes sending newly qualified teachers literature about the schools which is designed to counter misconceptions.
"Our own surveys show 67 per cent of NQTs would be interested in taking up the golden handcuffs payments, but the take-up from schools has been very low," TDA chief executive Graham Holley said at a recent seminar on challenging schools.
"We really want to know why that is and what we can do about it."
Sally Coates, head of Burlington Danes Academy in west London, said financial incentives were needed for all teachers, not just those new to the profession. She said that after the school was criticised by Ofsted, she had had to raise pay scales to persuade experienced staff to stay.
"As a challenging school you do have to pay more to recruit, and I have used Teach First too," she said.
"When I joined it was really important for me to persuade talented teachers who had found new jobs to stay."
But Gary Phillips, head of Lillian Bayliss Technology School in south London, said there were dangers in enticing teachers with money.
"I don't believe you attract good teachers just if you pay more; they are often the people who leave when the golden handcuffs deal runs out," he said.
"What we need is a way of getting young people into schools to see what they are like."
A DCSF spokesman said: "Schools had a choice whether to participate or not and we don't know exactly why some chose not to. We have reoffered since the initial invitation went out and will do so again for the coming recruitment season. Many of the schools said they planned to make more use of golden handcuffs this year."