THE 'threat' of legislation to give more power to schools is counterproductive, a committee has heard.

Earlier this year, John Swinney, the Education Secretary, had to shelve his flagship Education Bill because of a lack of parliamentary support.

The legislation was intended to introduce a new Headteachers’ Charter giving school leaders the power to set the curriculum, hire staff and control their own finances.

Instead of pressing ahead with legislation Mr Swinney has decided he can make better progress by working in collaboration with councils.

However, teaching unions and local authority umbrella body Cosla told the Scottish Parliament's education committee said the continued threat of legislation was unhelpful.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said it would be useful if the "big stick" of legislation could be withdrawn.

The union leader said he was concerned about how much progress could be made in a year, saying: "Frankly, if we're talking about changing the culture, the idea that we're going to do that in a year is fanciful.

"We need to get rid of the idea that there are threats sitting behind the offer of friendship around collaboration. I think it would be good if we had an early signal that the collaborative approach is working and that the legislation isn't going to be required.

Stephen McCabe, Cosla's education spokesman, said councils would also prefer the Bill to ditched completely.

He said: "We're happy that it hasn't been introduced, we're not so happy that it is sitting there on the shelf."

However, Mr Swinney resisted the calls saying legislating to introduce the reforms was still "an option I can bring forward if necessary".

He told MSPs the Bill had been put on hold because, while there was "very broad support" for giving schools across Scotland more power, there was "substantial disagreement about the detail of all of that".

He added: "I wanted to make sure I built on the agreement that was emerging about school empowerment and essentially captured that opportunity to take forward the reform agenda.

"I was also influenced by the commentary of the International Council of Education Advisers who essentially believe the Scottish Government's education agenda is soundly focused and anchored, but they gave me some cautionary advice that pursuing a legislative approach to the reforms ... might not create as good an outcome as if I took forward a collaborative approach.

"The concept of empowering schools is not just created by legislation, it needs to be a change of culture within our education system, and legislation doesn't always routinely deliver a change in culture."

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, later told him teachers saw that as "the threat of another law being imposed on top of them".