Headteachers insisted this week they must remain in charge if recommendations to employ school managers to ease their ballooning workload are approved.
Dedicated business managers should be deployed in larger secondaries to take over the day-to-day running of schools, freeing up heads to concentrate on raising educational standards, according to a draft report from the Assembly's enterprise and learning committee.
Heads that TES Cymru spoke to were insistent that any manager would have to report to them, and under their terms. But if those conditions were met, many said they would welcome the extra help.
The business manager proposal is seen as the answer to heads' soaring workload - it is widely acknowledged that many work 60-plus hours per week.
The committee investigated the impact of the 2003 workload agreement, which was introduced to cut down the amount of time teachers spend on administration and covering colleagues, freeing them up to do more planning, preparation and assessment.
But the committee heard that while teachers generally have more free time now, heads and support staff have taken on their burden.
The proposal to introduce school managers to work alongside heads and their senior management teams was influenced by evidence from Paul Elliott, head of local government for Unison, the union that represents most support staff.
Giving evidence to the committee, he said taking managerial responsibilities away from heads would mean they could concentrate on educational issues "rather than the managerial issues of running a school on a day-to-day basis".
Many schools in Wales, particularly large secondaries, already employ non-teaching staff - such as bursars and business managers - in senior management roles.
Neil Foden, head of Friars School in Bangor, said any manager would have to work under his direction, and the job description must be drawn up by the head and the governing body, not the Assembly government.
Brian Lightman, head of St Cyres School in Penarth, already employs a director of resources and a director of school administration, but would welcome more help.
"Heads are generally very happy to relinquish managerial responsibilities," he said, "but I wouldn't want to be told who to delegate to."
Anna Brychan, director of headteachers' union NAHT Cymru, expressed "deep concern" that non-teachers could be given too much power over schools.
"We are willing to look at this idea as long as the person who is in overall charge is a qualified teacher," she said. "When it comes to the budget, the person with the final say should be the headteacher. They must direct funding first and foremost to the educational priorities of the school."
Heads and teachers' unions also said school managers could only be successfully introduced with specific funding from the government.
Meanwhile, there has been a furore in England over the appointment of the first non-teaching head. Peter Noble was appointed chief executive of the Richard Rose Federation in Carlisle last year. But last week it was announced he was leaving, less than five months after the school opened.
Striking a balance
The report from the Assembly's enterprise and learning committee recommends that work-life balance issues should figure in teachers' appraisals.
It also recommends that the Assembly government should:
- Launch an urgent inquiry into the implications for schools of a clause of the workload agreement due to come into force in September that says teachers should "rarely cover" for absent colleagues
- Give more guidance to governing bodies about the role of the chair of governors in supporting heads
- Find out how much support local authorities are giving schools to implement the workload agreement.