Unions are receiving hundreds of calls a day in the rush to take advantage of the scheme. Some heads have been upset as local authorities struggle to put together applications in time for the£10m scheme's 3 December deadline.
Liz Paver, a former president of the National Association of Head Teachers and the head of a school in Doncaster, fell victim to the council's policy of indiscriminately inviting all eigible heads to apply.
She was surprised to have been thought eligible for a package desgined for heads 'who are not able to carry forward the major changes envisaged in improving education'.
The scheme is limited: heads in Wales are not covered (although Welsh civil servants have promised a similar scheme will be introduced), as are heads of failing schools or schools with serious weaknesses. Only the 10% of heads aged between 55 and 59 can apply and there is only enough money to pay for 200 of them to retire.
But councils appear to be curbing it further. Stockport MBC is one of a number which are not submitting applications because of the scheme's very tight deadlines, restrictive criteria and uncertainties over cost implications for councils.