The move is being backed strongly by the Catholic Education Commission and the St Andrew's education faculty at Glasgow University, both of which feel the existing Scottish Qualification for Headship is not an adequate preparation on its own.
It also has the support of the Catholic Headteachers' Association whose president Jack Nellaney of Trinity High in Renfrew told The TES Scotland: "This is an attempt to ensure that those who aspire to leadership positions in Catholic schools are able to fulfil the Catholic elements these posts require. There is, of course, the faith-related dimension but also the ethos of Catholic schools in terms of the teaching of the Church and current practice in our schools."
Mr Nellaney stressed: "This is not a separate SQH for Catholic schools but the SQH with a Catholic dimension." It is also being termed a "Catholic pathway".
One unesolved issue is said to be the position of Catholic teachers going for senior management posts in non-denominational schools, and which "pathway" they would be expected to follow. The picture is also complicated by the announcement last November of a new training programme for serving heads to complement the SQH and to which the Catholic authorities would presumably apply the same arguments.
But ministers are said to be wary of conceding such a departure from what they regard as a single, generic framework for all headteachers, particularly in the sensitive area of denominational schooling. "You could equally make out a case for a separate dimension for primary heads or secondary heads or nursery heads which would undermine the holistic nature of the qualification," one source said.
On the other hand, ministers are also likely to tread cautiously given the recent well-publicised spats between Cardinal Thomas Winning, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, on issues such as abortion and Section 28.