ALTHOUGH one school leader has described the Scottish Government’s Headteachers’ Charter as “populist”, widespread support for the plan is proving elusive.

Teaching unions fear the charter will create a “hero” cult around headteachers when improvement should be the responsibility of all staff.

Councils warned shifting power to headteachers for curriculum, finance and staffing cuts the cord of accountability connecting school decisions with local democracy.

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At a time of cuts to resources there is also a view that heaping more responsibility on heads will make the job untenable, leading to further difficulties recruiting school leaders in future.

And there is also the fear that the statutory nature of the charter, with a new legal duty on headteachers to collaborate to raise standards, will make them the lightening rod for all concerns about performance – including litigation from parents.

The Scottish Government has yet to respond officially to the consultation, which closed this week, but it is clear John Swinney, the Education Secretary, sees the charter as a key mechanism to empower headteachers and therefore schools.

Frustrated with the lack of support some councils provide and the varying nature of delegated power in different parts of the country he is seeking to fast-track autonomy.

An oft repeated mantra of his is that decisions about pupils are best made by the people who know them – teachers and headteachers.

Of the consultation responses published so far one of the most important is from School Leaders Scotland (SLS), which represents secondary heads.

As one of the most vocal supporters of the charter, Mr Swinney needs their continued backing in the face of mounting opposition.

SLS are still onside, but with two caveats that increasingly appear non negotiable.

One is new funding for business managers to help heads run schools. The other is a significant pay hike to reflect the greater responsibilities placed upon headteachers.