Sixth-form college teachers are being left in financial limbo after employers failed to reach a decision on their annual pay rise this September.
It is the first time in nearly 20 years that the pay of teachers in sixth-form colleges has not been automatically pegged to that of teachers in schools, which will rise 2.3 per cent in September.
The Sixth Form Colleges' Forum, which negotiates pay with unions, has told teachers they will have to wait until funding announcements in the comprehensive spending review this October before it can put a figure on any rise for 2010-11.
Insiders say they are not hopeful that the pay rise will equal that of teachers, given the extent of public sector spending cuts. Further education lecturers have been offered just 0.2 per cent this year.
An across-the-board public sector pay freeze, due to kick in for teachers in September 2011, was announced in the emergency Budget in June.
If sixth-form college teachers are not offered the same rise as teachers this autumn, it will mean teachers in the three sectors will be teaching identical qualifications, such as A-levels, at three different rates. There are some 8,500 full-time equivalent teaching positions in sixth-form colleges.
The Sixth Form Colleges' Forum's head of secretariat, Sue Witham, said it "hadn't got a clue" about how bad the cuts would be, so it had decided to "hold off" making a pay offer.
"Colleges already know their funding for 2010-11, but this is about future planning," she said. "Colleges are very nervous about what their funding position is going to be. We need to see what comes out in the spending review this autumn."
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, NUT and NASUWT have called for pay parity between teachers in schools and sixth-form colleges. Martin Freedman, head of pay at the ATL, warned that an unequal pay deal could lead to recruitment problems.
"The expectation will be that they get at least as much as teachers in schools," he said. "Sixth-form colleges will be in a much worse position to recruit and retain if their teachers earn less."