Headteachers are sharply divided over a proposed shake-up of senior teachers' pay agreed last month between the Government, employers and five of the seven teachers' unions.
Under the plans, management allowances will be scrapped and point four and five of the upper pay scale will be replaced by performance-related payments for excellent teachers.
Opponents of the changes say they will demotivate teachers and damage working relationships in schools. Only the heads of large and medium-sized departments are expected to qualify for the upper band of the new "teaching and learning responsibility payments" (TLR 1), which will be worth between pound;6,500 and pound;11,000. Teachers with lesser responsibilities will get just Pounds 2,250-pound;5,500 - a pay cut for many currently on management allowances of up to pound;10,836.
Neil Foden, head of the 1,265-pupil Friars school in Bangor, Gwynedd, says that even in a relatively large school like his, the only people likely to be on TLR 1 are the heads of core subjects and two of the faculties.
"That's five staff out of 40-odd promoted posts. So the huge majority of staff are likely to go on TLR 2, a lower level of allowance," he says.
Also, since the new responsibility and excellent teachers' payments will be mutually exclusive, Mr Foden predicts that some staff will feel insulted.
The implication is that they can be excellent teachers or curriculum managers but not both.
With only a minority of experienced teachers likely to gain excellent status and the associated pay rise, he also expects to spend much of his time "managing disappointment" of the rejected majority.
That's when he is not trying to tackle what could well be a major recruitment crisis. Mr Foden points out that teachers judged excellent and earning up to pound;41,000 in inner London and pound;35,000 elsewhere will have little incentive to take on a TLR 2 responsibility that raises their pay by just a couple of thousand. "I can foresee problems recruiting staff, particularly to some of the smaller departments because the differential in salary will not be big enough to justify the additional workload," he says.
The controversial proposals are part of evidence submitted to the School Teachers' Review Body by the joint union-government group which last year hammered out the deal to cut teachers' workload.
The so-called "rewards and incentive group" includes Education Secretary Charles Clarke, the employers' organisation, all the major heads'
associations and classroom except the Welsh UCAC and the National Union of Teachers. The NUT has instead called for significant pay rises for all experienced teachers.
The proposed new pay system follows research by the review body, which found many schools were not using "management" allowances to recognise extra responsibilities. Instead they were using them as a recruitment or retention bonus, to reward good performance or pay for administrative work.
Under the proposals teachers currently paid for these reasons will qualify for TLR payments only if they take on new teaching and learning responsibilities. Others will lose their allowances, though they are protected for three years.
But heads on both sides of the divide argue that most schools no longer use management allowances to pay people to do administrative work. The minority that still do will now have a chance to restructure, according to John Beer, head of Ladymead community school in Taunton, Somerset. Referring to the one-off staffing reviews that all schools will have to carry out by the end of next year to decide who qualifies for the new responsibility payments, he says: "This is a real opportunity for heads to put in place systems and structures which reflect how they feel teaching and learning should be managed in their schools."
His own school had been planning to do its own review this term in order to iron out the anomalies that creep into any staffing structure over the years as departments shrink or grow or circumstances change. The school has now been put this on hold until the review body makes its recommendations to the Education Secretary in January.
Mr Beer, a member of the National Association of Head Teachers' council, says the new system will allow schools to pitch payments at the level most appropriate to their needs within each TLR band.
But small primary schools may struggle to fund the new allowances. Alan Rutter, head of Robert Ferguson primary school in Carlisle, says that many primary teachers on their first management allowance will lose out under the new system.
"I just don't see how primary schools will be able to afford to pay the new TLR points," he says. "They are going to be out of reach of the vast majority, so people on management allowances will lose them and you will then lose the structure that allows for progression in a school."
Mr Rutter, who like Neil Foden is a member of the NUT's national executive, believes the new system could severely damage relationships between heads and staff.
But other heads are reserving judgement until they see the detailed review body proposals.
Nick Christou, head of East Barnet school in north London, says every one of his management allowance holders has an impact on teaching and learning, But whether they qualify for the new payments will depend on the criteria the review body comes up with. "So long as they word it in a way that allows us to use our judgement and professionalism, then that's fine. But if they are very fussy and inflexible in their wording that's a different matter," says Mr Christou.
He is more concerned about how the excellent teachers' scheme will work.
The Government has indicated that it would provide extra funding for this but not said how much.
But the rewards and incentives group expects just 20 per cent of those now on level three of the upper pay scale to achieve excellent status. Even in funding that, schools such as East Barnet could find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
"I could quite easily put 75-80 per cent of my staff in the excellent teachers' scheme and they'd meet whatever criteria are set," says Mr Christou. "So how do I go about selecting 20 per cent of them to go through when I'm going to upset another 60 per cent? That's where it becomes a big issue."
SCORING PAY POINTS
Teachers will only get the new TLR payments if they have a significant, specified responsibility focused on teaching and learning beyond that required of all classroom teachers.
Heads awarding TLR points will have to judge whether a teacher has a significant role in leading a subject area or responsibility for a significant number of people.
The payments will not be portable between schools and will be withdrawn if a teacher cannot or will not perform the responsibilities. Teachers on management allowances who do not qualify for TLR payments will have their pay protected for three years.
The joint union-government group that proposed the new allowance expects the cost of them to be less than that of the old management allowances.