Plans to introduce regional pay for public-sector workers risk discriminating against older teachers and those working in primary schools, a union warned today.
The proposals will leave schools, especially those in deprived areas, struggling to recruit top staff and reduce teachers' salaries, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).
More than half of teachers (53%) believe a move to regional pay rates would lead to discrimination on grounds of age while the same proportion said it would lead to salaries being linked to the age of children taught, with primary-school teachers receiving less, according to a survey conducted by the union.
Nearly two-thirds (62%) said that teachers will be discriminated against depending on the subject they teach - with those who do not teach maths, English or science losing out.
The survey was published as delegates at ATL's annual conference in Manchester passed a resolution raising concerns over the Government's bid to reduce the role of the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) - which currently deals with pay and conditions - and move to regional rates.
It said that ATL should "defend robustly" existing national pay structures for the teaching profession.
Proposing the motion, Ralph Surman, of the ATL executive committee, indicated that the proposals could lead to fresh industrial action.
He said: "This issue around local pay, we've already heard, it's going to be the next really big challenge to all of us, and it could end up in dispute. That's the reality of all of this."
Kim Knappett, of Forest Hill School in London and also a member of ATL's executive committee, seconding the motion, said teachers are going to be "up for grabs".
"Regional pay, local rates, all it will do is reduce the pay for the many and not really even benefit a few. This will reduce the salary of teachers where they think they can get away with it," Ms Knappett added.
ATL's survey, which questioned almost 800 teachers, lecturers, heads and principals in UK schools and colleges, found that about three-quarters (76%) of those questioned said pay should not be at the discretion of a school or college head or governing body.
A head of department at a secondary academy in Liverpool told the survey: "Experienced, older staff would be discriminated against in favour of newly qualified teachers and less expensive staff."
A primary teacher in Bradford said: "The current system is fair - no matter where you work or move to you know what you will be paid.
"If it is at the head's discretion, people will be paid differently in different schools for doing the same job, which shouldn't happen.
"It could also lead to heads trying to outbid each other for the best teachers, leading to over-inflated pay budgets for schools."
A member of the leadership group who works in a secondary school and further education in Nottinghamshire said: "Moving away from the national pay scale will lead to shortage subject teachers, particularly maths as well as English teachers being paid more even though they will teach the same level, with same class sizes."
Speaking last week, ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said the union will give evidence to the STRB, which has been asked by ministers to look at how regional pay could be introduced.
She said there is currently a national pay system for teachers with four pay bands - inner London, outer London, the London fringe, which includes parts of the home counties, and the rest of England and Wales.
"We would rather keep the current banding system than have a free-for-all with schools setting pay school by school," Dr Bousted said.
A DfE Spokesperson said: “Schools cannot solve all problems. It is clear though, that a lot of schools haven’t properly addressed poor performance. Union leaders should be challenging underperformance in our schools on behalf of their members, rather than defending a culture of underachievement. The public and many teachers in the country will be confused that Union leaders dislike the idea of schools being given the freedom to pay good teachers more.
“We are making more money available for schools to support disadvantaged children with the pupil premium. The previous funding system simply didn’t work. We have reformed it so that thousands of children will finally be getting the extra support they need to succeed.”