He told the Secondary Heads' Association annual conference in Bournemouth: 'You have a role that is not an easy one. Any industrial action in schools puts heads squarely in the crossfire.
'But headteachers as managers and chief executives of their schools know that big issues are at stake.'
Mr Patten said the Dearing review, which streamlined the national curriculum and tests, had answered teachers' grievances. Continued industrial action by the National Union of Teachers was 'damaging and pointless'.
He added: ''It is not just the law which is at stake; it is also the Dearing settlement itself. If, as headteachers, you believe in the consensus which Sir Ron has fashioned, I hope you will stand up for that consensus and make it work. If not, all the praise for his work is kind, but absolutely worthless.'