There are three related reasons why I embarked upon this study. The first is my personal experience of headship. For three years, ten school terms (1980-3), I was headteacher of a junior school in Leyland, Lancashire, with approximately 300 children on roll. Second, my work as tutor in Primary Education and Management at the University of Cambridge Institute of Education has involved me in working with large numbers of primary school headteachers on a variety of courses and activities (50-and 20-day courses; LEA conferences; workshops on leadership; residential courses; consultant to a headteacher support group). Third, as a consequence of these two I have taken a strong interest in the literature concerned with primary school headship (research reports, articles and books-both generic educational management texts and accounts specific to the work of primary heads). However, the literature, though insightful in some ways, fails to portray the essence of the experience of headship as I remember it and as I believe many of the heads I have worked with appear to experience the job. Generally the literature concerned with headship either takes a monocular view of the work, by focusing upon one aspect of the job, or presents too simple and neat a picture. Although some writers have provided useful analyses, these have often been abstractions which only partially reflect the reality of headship (Hughes 1976:59). There is a general failure to come to grips with the ‘street realities’ of headship (Ball 1987:81). Headship is presented as a rational set of tasks and responsibilities. The interaction between categories is not considered, nor is the affective dimension of dealing with people given attention.