Publishing all headteachers' salaries is not the best way of stopping "runaway" pay and would take transparency too far, according to education secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove told the NAHT annual conference that "we need to respect the privacy of individuals who work in our schools" and engage in a "more adult debate" about the amount heads are paid.
"We can't have a process of targeting individuals and questioning whether the remuneration of an individual is right or wrong," he said.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Gove said that the Government needed to ensure there is "appropriate support and guidance to make sure we don't have runaway salaries".
His comments come just weeks before the publication of a School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) report on heads' pay.
It is expected to set out clearer rules for governors on how to set pay for leaders taking charge of more than one school or a particularly challenging one.
Current guidance on pay for roles such as executive headship are vague, leading to public criticism of some larger pay packets, with heads being named in the press.
Some data relating to pay is available from local authorities, the Charity Commission and the Freedom of Information Act, but there is no single database of headteachers' salaries.
Mr Gove initially called for pay to be capped to that of the prime minister - #163;142,500 - but backed down after the STRB said it might encourage pay inflation.