EIGHT out of 10 experienced teachers are to get a pound;1,000 merit-related pay rise this autumn.
Heads have set new criteria for bonuses, which most senior teachers are expected to meet, after securing extra money from the Government. Teachers will need to show they are maintaining previous standards, tackling weaknesses and moving towards performance targets.
Just three months ago, Education Secretary Estelle Morris told English heads that rigorous criteria would be applied to performance pay rises and that they would have to take "tough decisions". Her remarks were seen as an indication that many people would not qualify.
The National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association now believe 80 per cent will get the cash.They predict that at least 110,000 people who picked up pound;2,000 bonuses two years ago when they crossed the performance pay threshold will receive a further rise.
Some 138,000 teachers in England who crossed the threshold in 2000 are being assessed this term. Success moves them on to the next rung of the upper pay spine, taking their basic salaries to pound;28,926.
In Wales, 14,500 experienced teachers are eligible for pay rises. Welsh education minister Jane Davidson has said they should all get more, although councils fear they do not have enough cash.
Last month, the Government avoided industrial action by heads' unions by raising funding for the scheme from pound;100 million to pound;110m this year. Next year, schools will receive pound;150m.
David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said: "A lot more people will be supported on the upper pay spine than before we did this deal."
A further 100,000 teachers at the top of the main pay scale are queuing to cross the threshold, on to the upper scale where they will start on salaries of pound;27,894.
Mr Hart denied that the large numbers getting the bonus meant it was not really performance-related. "A quota system or one where you say you must make PRP more rigorous as you move further up is crude, unacceptable and demotivating," he said.
John Dunford, SHA general secretary, said: "The chief inspector's report recognises the quality of work being done by teachers. The Government is looking for a teaching system that recognises that."
The move will be seen as an attempt to protect heads from legal action. Classroom unions, who are angry at not being consulted over heads' deal with the Government, would have encouraged those who missed out on pay rises to take the matter to an industrial tribunal.
The National Union of Teachers is still unhappy with the link between pay and performance. Any member rejected is being advised to contact its officials.
Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The key will be whether there is sufficient money. If not, there will be a large problem."
Ruth Lea, head of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "This doesn't sound much like a conventional PRP system to me, but more like teachers jumping through bureaucratic hoops."