Managers from outside education could help lead the increasing numbers of big and complex schools, according to an international report to be published this month.
But after lobbying from trade unions, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report has backed off from recommending the recruitment of business executives as heads.
Some countries, such as the Netherlands, appoint non-teachers as heads, but most developed countries still insist on a teaching qualification.
School governors in Britain have consistently refused to appoint non-teachers, despite ministerial urgings to tap external expertise.
An initial draft of the report, which looks at school leadership in 22 of the 30 developed OECD countries, said policies should be set in place to allow non-teachers to serve in leadership teams. "Opening leadership positions to candidates from outside schools but with an understanding of pedagogy, as Sweden has done, may be an effective way of widening the applicant pool," it said.
But the OECD's trade union advisory committee, on which the National Union of Teachers, Britain's biggest teaching union, is represented, persuaded the report's authors to delete that recommendation.
John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, said the report was now focused on distributed pedagogic leadership of schools.
"This must have a powerful influence on the Government in persuading it to back off plans for non-teachers as heads," he said.