Measures to drive up attainment will fail if local authorities continue to "cut a swathe" through principal teacher posts to save cash.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association this week went on the offensive following the purge of hundreds of senior posts and said there was no evidence that slimmed-down management models will work.
Virtually all authorities are introducing some form of restructuring but Barbara Clark, the union's assistant secretary, protested: "We are not convinced that the case has been made for the kind of changes proposed."
Principal teachers had been at the sharp end of all the Scottish Executive measures such as improving the quality of teaching, introducing more appropriate and varied courses, and improving pupil behaviour.
"It is as if Neville Chamberlain had returned from Munich and promptly cancelled Britain's re-armament programme," she said.
Authorities were heading in 32 different directions with one school believed to be forming a faculty "by simply combining the group of subjects taught in the same corridor". West Lothian, she said, is appointing "principal teachers curriculum" as current postholders move on.
"The consequence of this policy is that the new super PT may be responsible for a bizarre combination of subjects. There are also huge variations in responsibilities between different super PTs in different schools.
"One is responsible only for mathematics and business education. Another for PE, music, CDT and art. Yet pending job-sizing, both are currently paid the same salary," Mrs Clark reveals.
Other authorities had taken a less pragmatic but more honest approach, the SSTA insists. In Falkirk, all existing principal teachers will apply for a set number of super PT posts with unsuccessful candidates reverting to classroom teachers.
The union argues that the architects of reform have never considered aspects such as probationer mentoring. "If the probationers are placed in schools where there is no subject principal teacher and other subject teachers are also inexperienced, how can the school meet its contractual responsibility for support and development of newly qualified teachers?"
Mrs Clark asks.
The union maintains that it accepts the case for more flexible remits among PTs and admits the curriculum may be over-specialised. "For years, school managers have complained that the system of calculating promoted postholders' salaries in secondary schools by pupil roll alone was far too blunt an instrument.
"For all its flaws, the job-sizing toolkit offers the possibility of a far more flexible structure which would allow the creation of new posts while still protecting subject teaching by appointing PTs at lower points on the PT scale with an appropriate job-sized remit," Mrs Clark states.