Dave Bennett is at the top of his game. He has taught RE at Babington community technology college in Leicester for 16 years and in 2001 was named the national secondary teacher of the year. But he has no desire to move into headship just yet.
Instead Mr Bennett, 39, has chosen another career path: passing on his expert knowledge to colleagues as an advanced skills teacher.
The role, which he has held for the past four years, means he is responsible for much of the training and development in the school, mentoring staff on the best classroom techniques.
"I get paid as part of the leadership team but I wanted a job that focused my energies on the classroom and avoided all of the administration that becoming an assistant or deputy head can bring," he said.
To gain AST status, Mr Bennett had to produce a portfolio, outlining his contribution to the school, the performance of children under his charge and how he supported other members of staff.
An external assessor also visited the school for a day to watch him in action. "It was daunting and in many ways depends on the whim of one assessor, but no system to judge the AST standards is ever going to be perfect," he said.
"But in general I would say a review of classroom standards is welcome. QTS probably needs to be looked at, just because of the growth of school-based training."
Barbara Woodward turned her back on a career as a research scientist to become a teacher. The 42-year-old is studying for a masters in education at the University of East Anglia while working at Wellesley first school, Norwich, on a part-time basis.
She said: "It certainly is more challenging than any previous work, but I was quite surprised that with my extra qualifications I did not benefit at all, I started at the lowest NQT pay level. They want to encourage people with external skills to come into teaching yet, despite the fact I am studying for a masters in education, there is no benefit financially."
Kevin Bullock, 51, has spent 18 years as a qualified teacher and now has 224 pupils in his charge as head of Fordham primary school, Ely, Cambridgeshire.
He recognises that perhaps too many teachers are advancing to the top of the profession's pay-scales, but warned the Training and Development Agency for Schools risks alienating many good teachers if it alters the present system too much.
"The Government's apparent thrust - which I agree with - is that extra remuneration must be linked to the classroom and teaching responsibilities," he said.
"What concerns me is that my best teachers are not necessarily those getting the best test results. They have got to have a very sophisticated measure to reward the best teachers and sometimes that is very hard to define."