Michael Bichard, the permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, addressed a conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in York last weekend. He said: "The support provided in the form of leadership by the headteacher is absolutely critical. And yet often the head has had no opportunity to develop leadership skills.
"We simply cannot afford to wait for the fruits of the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers and the Headlamp scheme.
"We need to ensure not only that new heads are properly trained but also that existing heads have the opportunity to develop relevant skills.
It is understood that next month's White Paper will outline plans to train all headteachers who have been in post for five years or longer.
With cost as a major consideration, ministers are yet to decide whether or not such a scheme should be compulsory. One option involves merging the Headlamp scheme for newly-appointed heads with this initiative.