MINISTERS are pushing ahead with plans for performance-related pay for teachers in the face of outright hostility from classroom unions but with the backing of heads and the majority of school governors.
A record 41,000 responses were received on the ground-breaking proposals to change teachers' pay and conditions. But only a third supported the introduction of a new appraisal system.
But more than half the governors gave the move, to come into effect in autumn 2000, their seal of approval.
Ministers clearly have no intention of backing off from the commitment to a performance threshold and the potential for teachers to earn more than pound;35,000 a year.
A leaflet to be sent to every teacher claims the introduction of a crude system of payment by results or a return to "Victorian" funding mechanisms is not on the agenda. It is more conciliatory than Tony Blair who this week accused the public sector of resisting change.
But Education Secretary David Blunkett writes in the leaflet: "Teachers can and do make a difference to their pupils. If you accept that, you cannot have a system which fails to recognise the contribution which teachers make to their pupils' achievements."
Under the proposals teachers with the maximum 9 points on the present salary scale - which is worth more than pound;23,000 a year - could apply to pass a performance threshold. If successful this would produce an initial pay increase of up to pound;2,000 a year.
Teachers could then be given additional performance points of pound;800 to pound;1,000 to a maximum of pound;30,000.
With additional management allowances a teacher with maximum responsibility and performance points would earn more than pound;35,000 a year and an advanced skills teacher pound;40,000-plus.
Pupil progress is one of the important aspects of both the threshold and of performance-related promotion.
"Objectives for pupil progress should take account of pupils' starting points and should be agreed between the teacher and the team leader in the context of the school, those pupils and that teacher," the leaflet says.
Mr Blunkett is expected to publish his remit to the School Teachers' Review Body within weeks, and it will make its pay recommendations in spring 2000. Teachers need to apply for the threshold by next May.
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "There's no chance of reaching an agreement."
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said there should be no link between appraisal and pay or the use of exam and test results.
Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association and leader of the teachers' employers, said the unions would never agree to pay linked to pupil progress. "Going on about pupil performance is the biggest cul-de-sac the Government could find itself in."
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the Government now appeared to be offering teachers more of a career structure. He added: "We have no problem with the concept of reviews taking account of pupil progress but it must not be done on crude - or even sophisticated - numerical targets."
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Things are looking considerable better than they did at the beginning of the year."