Thousands of special educational needs teachers are at risk of having their pay cut under proposals to overhaul allowances.
Teachers who work predominantly with special needs pupils qualify for an extra payment of more than Pounds 1,900 a year. But the minimum allowance could be cut to Pounds 1,000 if the Government approves new recommendations.
Martin Freedman, head of pay and conditions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, described the move as "deplorable". "We are extremely disappointed that the lowest level of SEN allowance has been halved," he said. "The Schools Secretary (Ed Balls) has already recognised the difficulties of getting the best teachers to work in challenging schools.
"Teachers working in special needs face some of the most difficult challenges of all, and this proposal fails totally to recognise the crucial role they play in ensuring that all children receive access to high-quality teaching."
The recommendation was made by the School Teachers' Review Body, which advises the Government on pay. The current system gives staff one of two extra payments: Pounds 1,912 for teachers in special schools and for SEN teachers in mainstream schools; Pounds 3,778 for those with advanced qualifications and experience.
Mr Balls has accepted a recommendation that the two separate payments should be scrapped and replaced with a range of allowances. The proposal is that this starts at Pounds 1,000 and goes up to roughly the same value as today's higher allowance. A consultation will be held to establish the criteria for payments.
The cost of the allowances, which are given to approximately 15,500 full-time equivalent teachers in special schools and 2 per cent of teachers in mainstream schools, is about Pounds 100 million a year - equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the total teachers' pay bill.
Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, said a lower starting point could mean that more staff would be eligible.
Analysis, pages 16-17.