Universities fear the pool of potential teacher trainers is shrinking, as senior staff can now earn a lot more by staying in schools. Karen Thornton reports.
The widening pay gap between schools and universities could threaten the quality of teacher training as providers struggle to recruit good staff.
Experienced teachers who have passed through the new performance pay threshold will be earning close to pound;27,000, rising to more than pound;31,000 over several years. But that is around the maximum a senior lecturer in an education department can earn.
Department heads, deputy heads and advanced skills teachers all have greater earning potential in schools than in teacher training colleges.
Universities say that they are already struggling to recruit the calibre of teacher they would want to have training the teachers of tomorrow.
Some are having problems seconding teachers temporarily because the costs of replacing them in their schools are higher than lecturers' salaries.
Professor Mike Newby, chairman of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said it was increasingly difficult to fill posts.
He said: "Usually we would look for distinguished, highly experienced and successful teachers: maybe primary deputy heads or heads of department. But now they can't afford to apply, and we can't pay them what they need to stay on an even keel.
"The harder it becomes to get high-quality staff, the more likely it will be that quality (of training) will suffer."
Diana Brightling, initial teacher-training co-ordinator at Brighton University said one of the university's former students, who has been teaching for five years, already earns more than those who trained her.
Ann Slater, co-ordinator for teacher education at East London University, said the situation was "quite frightening". Suitably experienced teachers were just not applying for teacher training jobs.
"The things are still there (that make university work attractive) like research, space, and being able to do a masters degree, but that's not enough when the money in schools is so much better," she added.
The higher education unions and employers are in the middle of pay negotiations, and due to meet again on May 10. The Association of University Teachers has said that the 3.3 per cent pay offer on the table is unacceptable. Lecturers' union NATFHE has called it "plainly inadequate".
Malcolm Keight, AUT's assistant general secretary, said: "Any offer that doesn't match or improve on the offer to teachers is going to compound the problem most obviously for teacher training, but also across university lecturing as a whole."
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said pay and conditions in higher education were a matter for the employers, the universities.
But he added: "We have listened to concerns from the sector about pay levels and recognise that staff recruitment and retention are central to providing a world class higher education system, which is why additional funding for HE includes pound;50m in 2001-02, rising to pound;110m in 2002-03 and pound;170m in 2003-04, to support increases in lecturers' pay."