Teachers in regions may be paid less

Teachers in Wales and the North and South-West of England face earning less than their counterparts in the South-east after the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, called for the scrapping of national pay rates for the profession.

His plans could lead to all schools being given the freedom to negotiate their own salary scales and teachers being paid regional "market" rates for the job. The two biggest teaching unions have threatened strike action if Mr Gove goes ahead with the plan, which also puts him at odds with the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who insisted earlier this week there would be no moves to introduce regional pay.

In its submission to the teachers' pay review body, the Department for Education argued that it was easier to recruit staff in some areas than others – fuelling fears that teachers in regions where there is less trouble recruiting staff will face a pay cut or years of pay freezes.

The DfE's evidence argues that vacancy rates are lower in the North-West, East Midlands and the South-West than the rest of country – inferring that schools do not need to pay such large salaries to attract staff. Teacher unemployment is highest in Tyne and Wear – suggesting this could be another area where lower pay rates might be introduced. By contrast, vacancy rates are higher in the South-East and the West Midlands – supporting the case for higher pay. London has high vacancy rates but teachers there already earn £4,000 to £5,000 extra.

The National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, have both warned of strike action if Mr Gove goes ahead with the plan.

A third, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, has acknowledged that the main reason it signed a pensions' agreement with the Government was that it wanted to devote its energy to opposing local pay rates.