TEACHER union membership has risen to a new record level, according to official figures.
The number of people registered with the six England-based teacher associations was 884,883 by the end of 2002, an increase of 5.6 per cent.
The 47,114 increase easily beats the previous year's 4 per cent rise to 837,769 - itself the biggest total since the 1970s when the statistics from the Certification Office for Trade Unions and Employers' Associations were first released in their current form.
The increase comes against a background of a steady rise in the number of teachers in England and Wales. The total rose by 4,300 during 2002 to 423,900, the highest figure since 1982.
All six associations registered improvements in their overall membership.
But these totals include retired and student teachers and it is fee-paying membership that is seen as a truer reflection of trade union strength.
On that measure, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the third biggest teaching union, registered a fall. An ATL spokeswoman put the loss of 10,336 fee paying members since 2001 down to the union's age profile. It was addressing the problem with a recruitment drive among younger teachers.
Despite the alarming 7.79 per cent slump, Peter Smith, them ATL general secretary, received the biggest overall package of the six teachers' leaders.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, did narrowly overtake him to become the highest salaried in 2002 on pound;97,004.
But Mr Smith, who retired at the end of the year following months of ill health, received pound;191,210 in 2002 including a pound;72,635 golden handshake and pound;21,729 in pension contributions.
His successor, Mary Bousted, will be paid a salary of between pound;83,583 and pound;107,013 when she takes over the job in August.
The National Union of Teachers strengthened its position as the largest teachers' organisation with the biggest percentage rise in fee-paying members (6.44 per cent), from 244,076 in 2001.
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers reported a 5.75 per cent rise, followed by the Secondary Heads Association with an increase of 5 per cent, the Professional Association of Teachers with 3.27 per cent and the NAHT with 1.78 per cent.
The Certification Office returns also reveal that the NUT, a long-standing critic of privatisation, has shares worth pound;82,170 in the privatised utility National Grid Transco.
An NUT spokeswoman confirmed the union was "not keen" on privatisation if it was "hospitals or schools or prisons or whatever". But she said the union had never taken a line on the privatisation of utilities.
She said a motion at the 2002 NUT conference on ethical investment had led to it selling all shares in arms, oil and mining companies at a loss.
MEMBERSHIP AND SALARIES 2002
Doug McAvoy, (right) NUT general secretary, salary plus benefits: pound;89,875 plus pound;17,076 pension contributions and pound;635 luncheon vouchers. Membership: 331,910 with 259,811 fee-paying members.
Eamonn O'Kane, (left) NASUWT general secretary, salary: pound;77,956 plus pound;14,811 pension contributions and pound;8,943 in other benefits.
Membership: 265,219 with 211,779 fee-paying members.
Peter Smith, (right) ATL general secretary, salary: pound;96,846 plus pound;21,729 pension contributions and a pound;72,635 termination payment. Membership: 202,585 with 122,289 fee-paying members.
Jean Gemmell, (left) PAT general secretary, salary: pound;57,313 plus pound;5,890 pension contributions and pound;615 private medical cover.
Membership: 34,163 (all fee-paying).
David Hart, (right) NAHT general secretary, salary: pound;97,004 plus pound;9,118 pension contributions, pound;5,953 car benefits and pound;1,791 medical insurance. Membership: 40,345 with 30,386 fee-paying members.
John Dunford, (left) SHA general secretary, salary: pound;74,536 plus pound;5,590 pension contributions plus pound;3,166 car and medical benefits. Membership: 10,661 (all fee-paying).