The behaviour scales are being developed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to help both mainstream and special schools demonstrate how they have improved behaviour.
But headteachers of schools for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties, speaking at their annual conference last weekend, said they were already using more sophisticated measures with individual pupils.
They were also worried that inspectors would expect schools to use the scales - even though they are voluntary.
John Brown, the QCA's principal officer for equal opportunities, told the conferene that the scales were meant to be used with groups of children to set a baseline against which later progress could be measured - thus helping schools raise standards of behaviour systematically. They were not designed to help with the diagnosis of particular individuals' needs, he added.
The scales describe behaviour in three areas - learning, emotion and conduct. Each is further subdivided into five targets, and set against a five-point assessment scale. The scales are school specific: teachers have to agree what "very good" and "very poor" mean in their school.
Developed and refined by Birmingham University, they have been piloted with 7,000 pupils and are due to be published in the autumn.