HEADTEACHERS will have the power to refuse to take teaching staff from other schools under controversial proposals.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said school leaders would not be expected to take teachers on so-called compulsory transfers under plans for a new statutory Headteachers’ Charter.

Compulsory transfers by local authorities have been criticised in the past because they mean schools have to accept staff regardless of whether they want the individuals.

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However, any move to allow headteachers a future veto could lead to a log-jam of staff in a particular school.

There are also concerns it could lead to a raft of tribunals because, under employment law, staff who no longer have a job in one school have a right to a suitable post in another.

The issue was discussed at a conference on school governance in Edinburgh organised by the Commission on School Reform - set up by think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy.

Mr Swinney said: “What will be in the Headteachers Charter will be the ability for headteachers to choose their own staff.

“I find it inconceivable how a headteacher can lead a school without being able to choose the staff that are in the school.

“Staff will be employed by the local authority, so the responsibility for performance management will be a combination of the leadership of the school and the local authority, but we have to be respectful of employment rights of individuals.”

Mr Swinney was asked by Keir Bloomer, a member of the commission, whether that meant headteachers would not be obliged to accept teachers on compulsory transfer from other schools.

The minister responded: “That would be my implication of giving headteachers the power to select teachers within their schools.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, described the strategy as ill-founded.

He said: “It is ill-advised because the Scottish Government is just about to launch a consultation on the Headteachers’ Charter and it does not sit well with that consultation if Mr Swinney is setting out in advance what he thinks it will end up looking like.

“Employment law is hugely complex and councils have duties and responsibilities to their employees which they must fulfill.

“It would be ludicrous if a surplus of teachers was maintained in one school because the headteacher of another school with vacancies doesn’t want the particular individuals.”

However, the move was welcome by Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represent secondary heads.

He said: “If the raisin d’etre of the charter is to empower headteachers to address the challenges and opportunities within the school community then most powerful and effective tool is high quality teachers who are in tune with the school ethos and values.

“The power to select and appoint the best available candidate is a major strength of the charter and it is encouraging that Mr Swinney understands the importance of the exerting of this power at school level.”

Under the Headteachers’ Charter, which is set to become law in 2018, new powers will be given to school leaders to shape the curriculum, decide on how funding is allocated and choose staff. The power to remove staff will be kept by councils as employers.

Stephen McCabe, education spokesman for council umbrella body Cosla, said: "This is some of the fine detail that still needs to be ironed out and is one of items for discussion in our future meetings with Mr Swinney."