Headteachers are demanding a bigger pay increase than classroom teachers in recognition of the work involved in delivering government reforms.
In a joint submission to the School Teachers' Review Body, the National Association of Headteachers and Secondary Heads Association demand "clear blue water" between the pay of heads, deputies and assistants on the leadership pay spine and that of the best-paid classroom teachers.
They have produced figures suggesting that they earn up to pound;8,000 less than managers with similar responsibility in other professions.
According to comparisons with the Hay industrial and service sector survey, the average primary head earns pound;40,000 compared to an expected pound;48,000 and the average secondary head pound;58,000 against pound;67,000. The associations demand that the pay structure recognise the "efforts, commitment and achievements of our members, upon whom the Government's agenda for reform, modernisation and raising standards depends so heavily".
It is more than a decade since heads got a bigger rise than their classroom staff.
The heads say they remain "unconvinced" about government proposals for a three-year pay deal for heads and teachers.
David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said that attempts at similar deals in other industries have tended to unravel - although, like the classroom unions and employers, the heads' final response will depend upon the deal offered.
The five biggest classroom unions have called on the review body to recommend a large increase in pay for all teachers in an effort to boost recruitment and retention.
The gap between teachers' starting salaries and those of other professionals has risen almost threefold in the past eight years and is fuelling staff shortages, according to the unions' joint submission. In a special submission the NUT has demanded a 10 per cent pay rise.
Figures from Income Data Services show the average starting salary of graduates this year was pound;19,714. This compares with a pound;17,595 starting wage for teachers outside London. Increased starting salaries could remove the need for "golden hellos" and other incentives to train in shortage subjects.
Unions also call for the Government to create new "promoted posts" for teachers who oversee the curriculum.
These posts could bridge the gap between teaching and management pay scales and act as an incentive for experienced teachers to stay in the profession, they argue.
The unions have, however, shied away from putting a figure on any increase in starting salaries to avoid early confrontation with ministers.
The STRB is due to report on next year's pay award in January.
In its evidence to the STRB the Government was expected to stand by its proposals to expand performance-related pay and that money should be used to reduce workload rather than for large salary rises.