PLANS for every new headteacher in Scotland to have a mandatory qualification from 2019 will exacerbate the current leadership crisis in schools, ministers have been told.

Responses to an official Scottish Government consultation on proposals for the compulsory Standard for Headship also said the move was open to a legal challenge.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the initiative in 2015 after seeing how leadership played a key role in improving standards in inner city schools in London.

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However, there have been growing concerns about staff shortages with figures showing 100 headteacher and deputy posts unfilled at the start of the school year.

And in March a major report on the state of Scottish education by school inspectors warned the recruitment crisis was damaging the quality of education on offer to pupils.

A written submission from Terry Lanagan, a spokesman for the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said prospective headteachers were already facing additional burdens of having to manage their own finances and take more control over the running of schools under government plans.

He added: "ADES supports the long term aim of a mandatory qualification for new substantive headteachers. However, there is currently a significant issue in relation to headteacher recruitment, especially in relation to primary headteacher posts.

"In these circumstances, it would be foolhardy to introduce another barrier to headteacher recruitment before current recruitment issues have been addressed. The date for the introduction of the new qualification should, in the view of ADES, be postponed until 2021."

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, also raised similar concerns.

He said: "Despite the fact the programme is already up and running we have significant concerns over the the ability of the system to generate a pool of significant depth and breadth of talent within this time frame.

"We also have concerns that, given the geographical nature of Scotland, and in specific circumstances, that the recruitment challenges identified will only be emphasised."

Mr Thewliss said that while he supported the establishment of a mandatory standard for headship other issue such as improved salaries also needed to be examined.

A separate submission from the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which will be involved in the running of the new qualification, raised the prospect of a legal challenge.

Jennifer Macdonald, senior legal adviser to the GTCS, raised concerns about the fact existing headteachers in Scotland are exempt from the requirement for a qualification while those seeking a post from outside Scotland would not be.

She said: "We are concerned the exemptions present potentially significant equality and equity issues for experienced, established headteachers from outside Scotland who may seek employment in Scottish schools, for example a headteacher moving from England. This position appears to us to have the potential for legal challenge on equality grounds."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise difficulties in recruiting headteachers in some parts of the country.

"Our investment in a clear Leadership pathway will help overcome the barriers to those wishing to take the step to headship, increase opportunities and incentivise both aspiring and experienced headteachers.

“We have established the Scottish College for Educational Leadership, delivered and funded a new Qualification for Headship, as well as developing a package of professional learning for established headteachers. "We are also working with partners including COSLA, ADES, the teacher unions and the Scottish College for Educational Leadership to develop a shared action plan to address barriers to the recruitment of headteachers.”