PUPILS face restricted subject choices under proposals to hand greater power to headteachers over the appointment of staff, a conference has heard.

Last month, it emerged heads will have the final say over who they appoint in schools - including refusing to take teachers from other schools.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said he found it "inconceivable" that a headteacher could lead a school without being able to choose the staff.

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However, councils currently have the flexibility to move teachers around schools to cover emergency shortages or plug particular gaps in subject areas.

Maureen McKenna, president of the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES), said the new arrangements could reduce curriculum choice in future.

She told the annual ADES conference in Cumbernauld: "I worry that if we move to a position where staff cannot transfer across the authority then how will the headteacher be able to shape and evolve the curriculum to the changing needs of their pupil population?

"We could end up having the curriculum rigidly described by the current staffing group who are unable to move around.

"If the pupil population declines because of a change in local industry and the headteacher is not able to reduce staff then all available budget will be eaten up which would reduce all flexibility - how does that meet the need of every child?"

The conference also heard concerns that the lack of flexibility could prevent the filling of emergency gaps caused by short-term absences at a time when there are acute shortages of supply staff.

An official from Glasgow described a situation where the council were able to move staff from one primary to a neighbouring school at short notice to ensure pupils didn't have to be sent home.

He said: "There were two schools close together which were not able to give an equitable service to children, but because we have a holistic view of staff we were able to redistribute so both schools had a similar staffing level.

"If that decision was left at a headteacher level with decisions made on each individual school then I think it would be much more difficult to have that movement and that could be an unintended consequence of empowering headteachers."

Mr Swinney, who attended the conference, said he would expect information about shortages to be shared in the same way in future as it was now and that it was not his intention to create "silo" schools.

He said: "There has to be a certain amount of pragmatism in the system to allow for short term issues to be addressed.

"Scottish education is a collaborative endeavour and the creation of the Headteachers' Charter is designed to empower headteachers to lead learning and it is up to all of us to make sure that is delivered effectively.

"Sometimes that will involve co-operation across schools because the whole notion of collaboration involves working across school and local authority boundaries."

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.