New regulations will be launched at Holyrood as ministers aim to introduce mandatory qualifications for head teachers.
Education Secretary John Swinney said such a change would ensure schools have “highly skilled empowered leaders” who will “help ensure the highest quality of learning and teaching”.
The move comes after Scotland’s schools produced their worst-ever performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings, with performance in reading, maths and science declining in comparison to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and UK administrations.
Scotland had been ranked above the OECD average for reading and science in the 2012 table and was average in mathematics, but the 2015 results showed it is about average for all three subjects.
Now the Scottish Government has announced regulations to introduce mandatory qualifications for head teachers will be published tomorrow, the same day that a consultation gets under way.
If the move is approved, new head teachers will have to gain a Standard of Headship award – being developed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland – before taking on such a position, with the change due to come in in August 2019.
It will not be made retrospective, so head teachers who are already doing the job will not be affected.
With the Scottish Government planning on giving some money for raising attainment directly to schools, Swinney said the new qualification would also ensure heads have the “leadership skills and support they need to grasp the opportunities of increased devolution in education”.
The education secretary said: “Effective leadership is one of the most important aspects of the success of any school.
“Strengthening professional leadership was a key recommendation of the OECD’s independent review of Scottish education and the changes we are proposing in this consultation will do just that.
“I urge everyone with an interest in this matter to have their say before the consultation closes on 20 March, 2017.”