Ministers have turned to one of the world's leading management consultancies to shape performance-related pay for teachers, as Tony Blair this week pressed ahead with the controversial reform.
From next week, Hay Management Consultants will start visiting schools in a quest to identify effective teaching. The aim is to research models of excellence from classroom teacher to headteacher and define competencies that could be used to appraise staff.
The American-based company has already helped draw up the leadership programme for heads and has been working to see how university pay scales relate to other, non-academic professions.
Hay also advises the National Association of Head Teachers, at whose conference Mr Blair made plain his backing for PRP.
The company will trawl through its database of schools involved in the Teacher Training Agency's leadership programme for heads which links competence and school improvement.
The consultants' findings will be used to define the criteria for teachers' annual appraisal and "threshold" assessment, which, once crossed, leads to a pound;2,000 rise and a higher performance pay scale.
In the first address to a teacher union conference by a serving Prime Minister, Tony Blair insisted PRP would not be dropped despite the profession's objections.
"Everyone will get the annual pay award, but significant extra money will be available for those for who excel," he told the NAHT meeting in Cardiff."
Lex Melzer from Hay said: "We want to develop the climate within schools to make performance management systems work."
David Hart, the union's general secretary, said: "It will be difficult to create a scheme which will suit 400,000 teachers and 25,000 schools."
One model of headteacher assessment is already being trialled in Nottinghamshire. Heads have been appraised by the chair of governors, a council officer and a headteacher colleague since Christmas. The authority is now advising schools standards minister Estelle Morris.
Targets are set relating to pupil performance, a school action plan and personal development. The appraisal interviews last two hours. Thirty heads volunteered last term, and most have now opted into the scheme.
Mick Brookes, head of Sherwood junior in Warsop, Nottinghamshire, said: "It was a non-threatening atmosphere because the appraisal was not attached to pay. Linking appraisal to pay changes things completely."
News, 2 and 4; Leader, 20; Opinion, 21