Local government chiefs are to press again for powers to influence the appointment of heads after ministers declined to include the measure in their first Education Bill.
Councillors want the right to advise or even intervene if they believe school governors are likely to appoint an unsuitable candidate to run a local authority school.
The head is now acknowledged as the single most important person in raising and maintaining standards in a school. But the Local Government Association said too many governing bodies lacked the experience to pick the right person.
LGA education chairman Graham Lane said: "If we are serious about raising standards, we have to look at schools' methods of appointing headteachers.
"We have to get the appointment right in the first place and not try to unravel it when it goes wrong. There's increasing evidence that some schools think it compulsory to promote the deputy."
He and LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beacham plan to raise the issue with Prime Minister Tony Blair. They hope an amendment will be added to the Bill as it passes through Parliament.
The issue has also sparked debate in Wales, where Anne Robertson, the chair of Governors Wales, told the annual conference of the principality's branch of the Society of Education Officers that the White Paper proposals would not help matters.
She criticised the proposal to let authorities dissatisfied with the school's choice of head call the governors in to explain.
Neil Harries, SEO chairman in Wales, described the Government's proposals as a "fudge". Legislation was needed to clarify the roles of governors and authorities in appointing heads, he said.
TES december 5 1997