New figures revealed this week by the Teacher Training Agency showed a massive leap in the number of headteachers leaving the profession.
The biggest change was in secondary schools where there was a 93 per cent increase in vacancies for headships in January compared with the same month last year.
The news came just 24 hours after HM Chief Inspector condemned 3,000 heads as inadequate and stressed in his annual report the crucial importance of leadership in raising school standards.
The figures are based on an analysis of advertisements for headteachers in The TES. Last January there were 54 ads for secondary heads. This January there were 104 (up 93 per cent). In primary schools the number of ads increased from 267 to 334 - a 25 per cent increase.
The figures were disclosed by John Howson, head of the TTA's supply unit, during a Commons education select committee inquiry into future recruitment needs. Mr Howson said the vacancies were evenly distributed across the country.
Margaret Hodge, a Labour member of the committee, said: "Given that only yesterday the chief inspector stressed the importance of getting good quality heads it is really worrying to see this massive increase in heads leaving. It must be connected to the retirement proposals and we also need to know who we are recruiting in their place."
The Government aims to halve the number of teachers who retire early after April. This has caused a flood of applications to beat the deadline and protests from the unions.
The TTA's chief executive Anthea Millett is preparing a new programme of qualifications for serving teachers to boost the status of the profession. One of these is a new qualification for heads, which the Prime Minister is now considering making compulsory.
Malcolm Thornton, Tory chairman of the select committee, said: "Mr Woodhead cannot absolve himself of responsibility if his words are taken up by a press hungry for sensation. It's no use saying:'read the body of the report'. The press will focus on controversy and he should be aware of that. He is in the business of weighing words very carefully."