MARCIA TWELFTREE gives every impoverished young teacher hope. She began teaching 35 years ago on just pound;100 a month. Now she is one of a select band of headteachers earning around pound;100,000 a year.
Although her pay packet may be the envy of her teaching assistants and newly qualified teachers, she says she is worth every penny.
Managing the 250 staff, 1,600 pupils and pound;7 million budget of Charters School in Sunningdale is "like running a small company", she says. The school is open seven days a week, from 7.30am to 10.30pm, and she is accountable for the whole operation. Charters was deemed "outstanding" in all areas by Ofsted inspectors last year.
And besides, the money does not go far in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, where the average house is pound;396,000.
But even from her lofty position, Mrs Twelftree feels strongly that the gap between the highest and lowest paid teachers is too wide.
She worries about her own staff struggling to survive on London fringe wages.
"The problem is that we're in one of the most expensive parts of the country, where house prices are on a par with those in central London, but we don't get the same benefits as teachers there," she said.
"We should all get paid more. We are educating the future generation and to me that's the most important job in the world."
James Looker, 28, a teacher at Forestdale Primary School in Croydon, Surrey, feels the same.
As a teacher who crossed to the upper pay scale this week, his pay rose from pound;33,500 to pound;38,000, which includes a teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payment of pound;3,900. But he says he is struggling to survive in the London suburbs, "mortgaged up to the hilt".
Mr Looker hopes to scale the ladder to headship one day, although he insists that if money had been his main motivation he would have become a banker.
At the other end of the scale is Simon Cassell, 25, who finished his PGCE in July and is teaching at Kings Avenue Primary School in Brixton, south London.
His starting salary is pound;23,577 and he commutes from his parents' home in Surrey. He said: "I think my pay is quite good for a starting salary, but the extra money we get in inner-London still doesn't compensate for the extra living costs.
"I have a law degree, so if pay was at the top of my list I would have pursued a career as a lawyer. I love teaching and get a lot of job satisfaction from working with children.
"Headteachers deserve every penny they get paid as it's a 24-hour job and carries huge responsibility. I would like to climb the ladder but at the moment, I'm enjoying being a classroom teacher."
The London fringe, where the typical secondary teacher earns pound;33,493, is not the only region where teachers struggle to survive.
Despite the fact that classroom teachers' pay rose 15 per cent in real terms between 1997 and 2005, the increased cost of housing across the country has eaten into the gains.
The latest figures from the School Teachers' Review Body survey reveal for the first time how much teachers are being paid for taking on extra responsibilities.
Most TLR payments paid out in primary schools are between pound;1,000 and pound;3,000 only a few were on the top rate of pound;8,000 plus.
But in secondaries, around 40 per cent of responsibility payments are worth between pound;3,000 and pound;6,000. One in five payments in secondaries were at the top level, substantially increasing recipients' pay packets.
Around 30,000 fewer teachers or 8 per cent are receiving these payments than received the old management allowances.
Teachers can also chase after recruitment and retention payments in certain areas. According to this week's figures, schools in outer London are the most likely to offer one-off payments. Yorkshire and Humberside were least likely.
Schools in the South West were least likely to offer recruitment and retention money as part of a teacher's annual salary.
The survey also revealed that pay for most unqualified teachers' is clustered at both extremes of the pay scale.
Those paid on unqualified rates were doing substantially better in the capital than elsewhere, reflecting the number of experienced, but officially unqualified, overseas teachers employed there.