THOUSANDS of special needs teachers in mainstream schools could be in line for a pay boost following a county court judgment in Durham.
Three special needs teachers employed at Deerness Valley comprehensive, Durham, challenged their school governors and local authority over their right to extra pay points.
National pay and conditions agreements provide for a possible two points for classroom teachers working "wholly or mainly" in special needs education.
Some schools have taken a narrow interpretation of the wording and restricted pay points only to teachers working solely with statemented children.
Now Durham county court has declared that it is not necessary to establish that the teachers spent more than 50 per cent of their time actually teaching the pupils. It is enough that they were applying their specialist skills wholly or mainly for that purpose.
Two of the teachers employed at the school were awarded pound;12,700 each in back-pay and the third, who no longer works there, will receive pound;9,735.
The National Union of Teachers, who backed the challenge, claimed that the ruling could have implications for thousands of special needs teachers.
Doug McAvoy, general secetary, said: "This is a very important approach which will probably have a significant impact."
All 23,000 state schools have special educational needs co-ordinators who may provide support in the classroom. A typical 1,000-pupil secondary school could employ up to four specialist teachers.
But Mike Walker, of the National Employers Organisation, said that while the interpretation of the pay and conditions agreement could be difficult, it was unlikely that one judgment would cover all cases.
Disability groups are fighting to remove a clause from a forthcoming Bill which would allow councils to take into account the effect on resources when deciding whether special needs and disabled pupils can attend mainstream schools. The new disability discrimination Bill, due before Parliament shortly, says that, in principle, such pupils should be educated in mainstream schools.
A new inclusion website, inclusion.ngfl.gov.uk has been launched to help teachers find resources for pupils' special needs.
Consultations on the new Bill close on April 28. Copies are available at www.dfee.gov.uksen or by telephoning 0207 925 5528.
See special needs curriculum special this week