Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the union would take the action to stop annual "MoT" tests for teachers being turned into a way of imposing performance-related pay.
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) also threatened a boycott of the annual appraisal, claiming yesterday that it would "swamp schools with bureaucracy".
Mr McAvoy said: "If the Government is determined to ignore the views of teachers, it will antagonise teachers. There could be half-day action, one-day or rolling strikes in the hope that between September this year and September next year the Government will change its position."
Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of NASUWT, said the union would negotiate over the changes, but warned: "It is prudent to prepare plans to defend teachers against the totally unmanageable impositions which seem, unfortunately, to be emerging from the Green and technical papers. If that can only be achieved by direct action, then so be it."
Headteachers and employers also attacked the proposals as unworkable, while the other major classroom unions hardened their position.
Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "I think that there will be widespread civil disobedience in schools unless the Government listens to the teachers' points of view. The Tower of London is not big enough to contain all the refuseniks."
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said the Government was proposing a "modern performance system, based on a range of factors including, but not exclusively, targets and results".
Writing in The Times Educational Supplement, he said: "Most parents - and teachers - would rightly say that teachers should, can and do make a big difference to the achievement of their pupils."
At stake is the most fundamental reform of the way teachers are assessed and paid for 100 years. Under the proposals, teachers will only progress up the pay scale if they pass an annual appraisal by their head teacher. To pass, teachers must be judged against annual targets, both for their own work and the exam performance of their pupils.
Once teachers get to the top of the classroom pay-scale, currently pounds 23,000, they can apply to take a tougher test to pass a performance and pay "threshold". Headteachers will recommend who should pass, but nationally trained assessors will have the final say.
Teachers who pass stand to gain a 10 per cent pay rise, and access to salaries up to pounds 40,000. But they will have to sign new contracts giving up restrictions on the length of the working year. According to the Green Paper, a majority will pass, but a "substantial minority" will not.
Senior government sources said it would be "extraordinary for a teachers' union to suggest to its members that they should oppose arrangements which would enable them to gain a pay increase of around pounds 2,000 a year.
"Effectively, a union which aims to block this appraisal system is telling its members they should settle for lower pay."Reuse content