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School heads come and go and it’s not often that a new appointment makes the news.But anything going on at the ultimate “posh school” – Eton College – unerringly hits headlines and as David Cameron’s alma mater (and, let it not be forgotten, that of 18 previous prime ministers) its appointment of a new headmaster is intriguing.Mrs Phillips is the head you want for your bright, lively daughter and she runs a first-rate school.But her presidency takes her out of school for three days a week. “I have an excellent senior management team,” she says.
Perhaps only the London independent academic day schools – now seen as the prerogative of the moneyed and bright from around the globe – have no need to send out their heads to recruit pupils. We hear every day from parents who don’t want “a hothouse’” and want their children to “have a childhood and be happy” but when we send them a list of schools that offer a broad curriculum and take a spread of ability, they ask us about “results” and whether the school sends a good number to Oxbridge.According to Janette Wallis, head of PR at The Good Schools Guide, Henderson is “extremely down to earth – one could not imagine a less upper-crusty head.The sort of straight-talking head you find at an über-successful super-fab comprehensive”. Given that one can’t go much higher in his profession than Eton, it is reasonable to suppose that he might stick around for the next 20 years or so. He hardly looks 38 and is positively boyish in energies and demeanour.Parents today want “visible” heads, heads who meet them at the door, who know that Oscar has just won a maths Olympiad or that Sophie is going on the skiing trip. Which makes it tricky if you are a really good head, admired by your peers, co-opted on to committees and elected to high office.Or, possibly, if you are a respected academic and write books – a desirable accomplishment in a head of a strongly academic school, you might think? How can a school run well if the head is always at conferences or meeting his publisher?