THE Government is dramatically falling below its own target of 5,000 advanced skill teacher posts by next September.
Since the so-called super-teacher grade was introduced in 1998, only 750 teachers have been successfully assessed.
The appointment of new superteachers is suspended following the Government's defeat in the High Court over the performance pay threshold requirements, meaning there is little chance of schools coming anywhere near the 2001 target. An evaluation report published in August suggested that even among those who had already been selected for the new grade, their talents were not yet being fully used.
In its submission to the pay teachers' review body, the Department for Education and Employment admits: "Excellent teachers have been identified but the harnessing of their skills has been more patchy and depends to a great extent on the commitment and support of their heads and education authorities."
At Beauchamp College in Leicester, 15 staff qualified as superteachers, with seven actually taking up AST posts a the school.
Yet this year, the college has withdrawn all these posts, partly because the local authority failed to secure any further funding for them. Instead, it is making up the teachers' pay by giving them extra management duties.
Headteacher Maureen Cruickshank said the posts had been useful and resulted in a significant improvement in GCSE results.
"The agenda has moved on. It now makes more sense to put teachers through the threshold and make up their pay with extra duties because we receive a pound;2,000 contribution from the Government, whereas this isn't the case with ASTs," she said.
She also cast doubt on the practicality of government proposals to have superteachers spend 40 per cent of their time on outreach work.
"There comes a point where self-interest takes over and you don't want to take your best teachers out of the classroom and send them to other schools."
The department said the suspension on the assessment of ASTs would be lifted in spring, once it receives the pay review body's annual report.