Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said most staff would accept pay linked to appraisals by heads.
But he warned that ministers would have to compromise on plans to bring pupils' examination targets into the pay formula and repeated warnings of industrial action if teachers' demands are not met.
A union-commissioned poll of 1,000 teachers published yesterday found 57 per cent were willing to accept a link between pay and appraisal "which takes account of skill, knowledge, ability and effort". Three- quarters of those polled also agreed with proposals to introduce maths, English and computer tests for trainee teachers.
In contrast, 73 per cent disagreed with proposals linking pay to the progress of pupils and more than half disagreed with the Government's "fast-track" proposals for rapid advancement for teachers with exceptional ability.
The NASUWT poll offers the Government the first hope of reconciliation after the publication earlier this month of detailed proposals for pay linked to performance.
But Mr de Gruchy warned: "This system will not work unless the Government gets the agreement of the majority of teachers. There is no way that what they are proposing now will do that."
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment welcomed the poll results. He said: "We confirm again our readiness to talk about the criteria for assessing teachers' performance."
The biggest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers, has already threatened a series of one-day strikes over the package. Other union leaders have warned that annual appraisal is "unmanageable".
Under government plans, teachers will have to pass an annual "MOT", based on exam targets and appraisals by managers, to win pay rises.
Staff at the top of the teachers' pay scale - currently pounds 23,000 a year for an ordinary classroom teacher - can apply to pass a nationally regulated "performance threshold".
Teachers have reacted with anger at plans to force them to set annual targets for their pupils' performance - and to have pay decided partly on whether the targets are met.
David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, has promised pounds 1bn over two years to fund the proposals, from which he says most teachers will benefit. Mr de Gruchy said the union would favour a system that gave teachers a main appraisal twice in their careers, but warned that an annual system would put too great a burden on teachers.Reuse content