Serialised in the Daily Mail, and featured in the Guardian and the Telegraph, Heads Up tells the inside story of the men and women running 32 of England’s leading independent schools – and the problems they face – from Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s to Wycombe Abbey, Withington and Winchester.

    How are heads hired and fired? How do they lead? Who competes for the best pupils in selling the brand and in league tables? When staff and governors are in dispute, who wins?

    Heads Up uncovers the secret world of this impressive, powerful group as they battle to create the right conditions for academic success, happy children and happy staff. They tell a story of demanding governors, awkward staff, nightmare parents, financial difficulties and the relentless pressure to achieve.

    At the centre of every school are children and their problems: bullying, cyber-bullying, drugs, eating disorders and family breakdown. How do heads manage problem children and which powerful parents litigate?

    Heads Up delivers the answers.


    ‘Dominic Carman has interviewed the Heads of 32 schools including Felicity Lusk at Abingdon, Marion Gibbs at James Allen’s Girls School, Andrew Halls at King’s College Wimbledon, Tony Little at Eton and Stephen Spurr at Westminster. The insights gained from the interviews are fascinating and do much to illuminate just why these schools are amongst the highest performing in the country, led as they are by such committed, dedicated and talented people. In Heads Up the views on leadership, collegiality and marketing are remarkably candid and open. Carman even asks the Heads to talk in detail about making mistakes and how to ‘bounce back’.
    Elisabeth Nicholas, Deputy Director of Education, the Girls’ Day School Trust

    ‘Dominic Carman’s overview of what has happened in education over the past five decades is lucid and useful.’
    Ralph Townsend, headmaster of Winchester

    ‘Heads Up is the best account of school leadership I’ve ever come across. I was fascinated by this well-rounded, punchy and realistic account of what our lives are like, doing the best job in the world. This is an inspirational and frank account of independent headship: anyone aspiring to be a head should read it, all current heads should read it, and all our colleagues should too.’
    Felicity Lusk, head of Abingdon School

    ‘I have read Heads Up with real pleasure. It provides a generous and thought-provoking insight into the different approaches and shared values of headmasters today, as well as some fascinating history.’
    Gary Savage, headmaster of Alleyn’s School

    ‘This is a fascinating and unique book, often punchy, at times outrageous, and always difficult to put down. Somehow, Dominic Carman has spirited out of a set of leading heads’ views and opinions which they probably would never acknowledge in public, as well as the occasional traditional view. The approaches are in many cases entirely contradictory, yet the effects on schools are clearly very comparable. No head – or governor — should be without this book; and for many parents it will be an eye-opening and extraordinary read.’
    Tim Hands, master Magdalen College School, HMC chairman 2013-2014

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