AN overwhelming majority of headteachers do not support plans to enshrine a new Headteachers’ Charter in legislation.

A survey of nearly 400 headteachers and deputes by Scotland’s largest teaching union found 88 per cent opposed a legal status for the charter.

Instead, members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) believe it should be backed up by written guidance.

Overall, the EIS poll found only 43 per cent of those surveyed supported the creation of a Headteachers’ Charter at all.

The charter - part of a new Education Bill - will give more powers to headteachers to shape the curriculum, decide on how funding is allocated and select staff.

Criticism from individual EIS members highlighted a number of concerns including increased bureaucracy and workload.

One EIS member said: “I fear the charter is a simplistic and populist response to complex challenges.

“It is in danger, in my view, of placing yet further pressures of accountability on headteachers who are already subject to a huge accountability agenda.

“I would be concerned about a significant addition of responsibility placed on headteachers who are already overstretched due to cuts in essential services.”

The EIS submission went on to criticise the focus placed through the charter on the role of the headteacher.

The union said: “Such an approach, which echoes an heroic leadership model, is at odds with everything that Scotland has being trying to achieve as it fails to advance the notion of ... leadership at all levels.

“The EIS would argue that rather than focussing so singularly on the formal role of headteacher the proposals should be seeking to entitle and empower teachers and schools more collectively.

“It should be noted too that evidence has emerged that the heroic model of leadership often results in short term results that are unsustainable, particularly when the “successful” hero is headhunted for their next challenge.”

Overall, the EIS warned the government’s plans to move power away from councils could undermine the system of comprehensive schools.

The concerns were echoed by the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), which called for the name to be changed.

The SSTA submission states: “Staff, pupils, parents and the wider school community must all be part of this collegiate leadership.

“Perhaps it would be more appropriate to have a schools charter given that the intention is empowering schools.”

However, School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, welcomed the government’s approach.

Its response states: “Given the fast moving and rapidly changing nature of the workplace we would value ... the power to introduce and remove areas of study from the curriculum to better enable it to meet the needs, interests and aspirations of young people.

“We fully support the removal of the practice of recruitment of staff by mass interview and their allocation to schools from a centralised pool.

“We would welcome the opportunity to enter into discussion in regard of adding rigor to the process of challenging under-performance.”

However, the body goes on to call for the new beefed up role for heads to be reflected in higher salaries - with support from new administrative and financial staff.

It said: “Every school leader must have the support of an appropriately qualified, trained and financially remunerated business support manager or bursar.

“We would expect to be involved in a significant review of salary levels, and see a commitment to a complete overhaul of the salary structures for school leaders.”