Salaries and recruitment will fall under new pay offer, claims teachers' union

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Teachers face a pay cut under a new two-and-a-half-year deal, union leaders warned last night.

The 420,000 teachers in England and Wales will get a 2.5 per cent rise next April, followed by a staged 3.25 per cent rise from April 2005.

The profession's pay review body has accepted a demand from Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, that a long-term pay deal is necessary to introduce more stability into school budgets and avoid a repeat of the 1,000 teacher redundancies earlier this year. Mr Clarke has accepted a proviso from the review body that the deal can be re-examined if inflation rises above 3.25 per cent or falls below 1.75 per cent.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Inflation is running at 2.8 per cent and the review body's proposal could constitute a cut in teachers' pay."

He added that he was "deeply disappointed" that Mr Clarke had vetoed an attempt to give the teachers 3.25 per cent in April 2005 -- and insisted 0.75 per cent of that rise should be held back until the following September.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Today's announcement provides a bleak prospect for teachers. Again this Government offers teachers less than the increase in average earnings. The decision to freeze teachers' pay at inflation will increase the gap with other graduate employees, increase the problems of recruitment and retention which will be used to force schools to use unqualified persons to take whole classes."

Leaders of headteachers' organisations, however, gave the long-term pay deal a cautious welcome. John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "On the general pay rise, heads are torn between the need to balance their budgets and the need for substantial pay rises to attract the best graduates into teaching. They will, however, welcome the added stability and predictability of a two-year pay award."

Further controversy is likely over government plans to restrict the number of senior teachers receiving merit rises of £1,000. The pay review body has rejected a demand from ministers to restrict the number to 30 per cent of those eligible. At present about 90 per cent receive the rises. The pay review body has, though, called for urgent talks to review the scheme, claiming "many schools have found it difficult to make rigorous judgements about their teachers' readiness to progress".

Under yesterday's deal, the starting salary for a teacher will rise to £18,558 next April. A teacher at the top of the main scale will earn £28,005 by September 2005.

The pay of the country's highest-paid state school headteacher will rise to £99,585.