A new training scheme aiming to speed the brightest candidates into headships within four years was announced this week.
The move comes as the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) said it could understand teachers' disappointment at missing out on money they expected from the new course's predecessor.
The new programme, which combines in and out-of-school training and will start in January 2010, was revealed exclusively to The TES after receiving ministerial approval last week.
The NCSL will recruit 200 existing teachers or career-changers each year into the Accelerated Leadership Development Portfolio (ALDP).
It replaces the Fast Track scheme, which has cost at least Pounds 89 million since its launch in 2001 but has resulted in only 176 people being recruited to headship or deputy headship positions.
Steve Munby, NCSL chief executive, said: "I definitely think it will provide better value for money. We think this will be an ideal preparation for leadership. It is routed in practice, and it is geared towards making sure that 10 per cent of all heads will come through this route. They will be the brightest, the best and the most talented."
Much of the training will take place in teachers' own schools. There will also be a "stretch assignment" to prove they can work well in a different school or other kind of institution.
Teachers who have not completed the existing Fast Track scheme when it ends in September 2009 will not be given preferential treatment if they apply to the new scheme. Some staff who began Fast Track before September 2005 are still angry that they will miss out on the five full years of the annual Pounds 2,000 recruitment and retention allowance they had expected. Mr Munby said. "I can understand why they feel let down, but the programme had to end at some point."
Teachers will not been given any financial incentive to join the new scheme, which will cost Pounds 11m a year. But the college expects to be inundated with applicants. To gain a place candidates will have to pass a rigorous assessment linked to NPQH standards, covering everything from their "vision" to emotional intelligences. Mr Munby said he expected successful applicants to come from middle or senior school leadership posts, or from outside teaching.
"I would be surprised if there was a 21-year-old straight from university," he said. "But there might be newly qualified teachers who have had other careers first.
"This is a programme designed to demonstrate it doesn't take 20 years to become a headteacher."