David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, attacked the payments as "grossly inflated" and accused the Government of allowing school inspections to become a gravy train.
Some head teachers who were planning to retire this term and become inspectors would be able to add their pounds 15,000-per-year pensions to these earnings along with a lump sum, he added.
He told his association's annual conference in Torquay that the Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, had confirmed that a registered inspector or team leader could make a profit of about pounds 4,500 on each inspection. By carrying out 17 one-week inspections per year and by restricting preparation and report writing to a week, an inspector could earn three times the salary of a primary-school head, he said, adding: "This just demonstrates the crass standards we have ... in our education system."
Privatised teams now bid for contracts to carry out inspections under a programme designed to cover every school in England by 1998.
Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Association of Lay Inspectors, denied that the job was overpaid and said most team leaders spent about three weeks on each inspection. "If we want the right calibre of people ... then this is the right money. But we should be bringing the rest of the education system into the same wage bracket," she said.