Preferential pay awards given to headteachers compared with their classroom colleagues are a "widespread abuse of public money", a teachers' union has told the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
In a letter to the committee, which is chaired by Lord Nolan, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers says: "We cannot convince ourselves that on a continuing basis a far higher proportion of heads than classroom teachers deserves to be rewarded each year."
According to the pay review body, 23 per cent of heads and deputies were awarded extra salary points by their governing body in 1994-95, compared to 5 per cent of classroom teachers. The previous year, 26 per cent of heads and deputies received extra awards.
Tony Meredith, ATL assistant secretary, said the situation should be investigated. Almost Pounds 12 million was spent on promotion payments for heads and deputies last year. "It gives the impression that heads are top-slicing the school budget. Last year was a particularly tough financial year, and we have to ask whether it was right or even-handed to make these awards, especially when heads and deputies were four times more likely to be paid extra than classroom teachers," he said.
Lord Nolan's committee is investigating local public spending bodies, including grant-maintained schools, further education colleges, and training and enterprise councils.
Concerns about the way heads' pay is determined have also been expressed in evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body, which reports at the end of this month. In its submission, the Office for Standards in Education said it found little evidence of governors applying objective criteria when awarding pay.
Governors have also told the review body they are unhappy with the present arrangements. Submissions from the National Association of Governors and Managers and the National Governors' Council said their members often felt under an obligation to award extra points, and would feel uncomfortable working with the head if they did not.
Heads too, particularly in primary schools, have said the system can cause embarrassment.
The criteria for extra pay points for heads include extra responsibilities, background of pupils and difficulty in filling the post.
The letter sent to Lord Nolan concludes: "If the 1995 pay survey shows, for what has been a period of particular financial stringency, that heads' and deputies' pay awards have again been relatively more frequent than awards to classroom teachers, we will take it as prima facie evidence of a widespread abuse of public money."