Alex Russell OBE, Chair of the Board of Governors, has announced that the next Head of Epsom College will be Mark Lascelles. He will assume the role in September 2024.
54-year-old Mark has spent 12 years as Head of Dauntsey’s School, a place where he always imagined he would finish his teaching career. “I had not been looking for a move, however the opportunity of leading Epsom is too tempting to pass up,” Mark says. “It is a school I have admired from a distance for a long time, and the more I discovered the keener I became to take on this role.”
Mark arrives at Epsom with an impressive record of transformational leadership within co-ed boarding education. Prior to Dauntsey’s, Mark spent three years at The King’s School, Canterbury, two as Lower Master and one as the Acting Head; and 17 years at Shrewsbury School as Teacher of Geography, Coach for the 1st Football, Cricket and Fives teams, and a much-respected Boarding Housemaster.
“We are delighted to announce Mark’s appointment,” says Alex Russell. “The search for a new Head started in earnest in the summer and we saw an exceptional calibre of candidates. Heads from some of the UK’s leading schools stepped forward, each with a bold and persuasive vision of Epsom’s future. The Board of Governors and members of Council conducted a rigorous selection process and ultimately, Mark proved to be the strongest candidate. He is our unanimous choice. From the very start Mark impressed and as the process moved on he got stronger, pulling away from a formidable pack.”
Mark takes on the role as Head of Epsom College from September 2024, and will liaise with current Head Sir Anthony Seldon, and Second Master Paul Williams, to ensure a seamless transition.
“I could not be more delighted than I have been by the appointment of my much sought-after successor,” says Sir Anthony. “Mark Lascelles combines deep experience, great empathy and high intellect. Epsom is going to have a very exciting future indeed under him.”
Mark is married to Amber, and together they have three daughters, Alex, Nina, and Romilly. Alex leaves school in the summer for university and then the Army, while Romilly is likely to join Epsom in September, in Year 9, and Nina will become an Epsom Sixth Form student in 2025 after she completes her GCSEs at Dauntsey’s.
Mark was educated at the Dragon School, Shrewsbury School and Durham University. He has been a Governor of three Prep Schools – Yarlet Hall, The Ryleys, and Brambletye – and he is currently on the boards of St Michael’s Prep, Jersey, Abingdon School and Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar School in Salisbury.
Meet Mark Lascelles
A Q&A with Epsom College’s next Head
Q. What was it about the role at Epsom that made you apply?
Epsom is a superb school, with a fine reputation for strong academic results, excellent sport, and a balanced and comprehensive co-curricular programme. It is renowned for developing the all-round qualities of all pupils, while looking after them well, in a beautiful setting. These are all the things that I believe strongly in and, to cap it all, my best friend in education, who is also a Head, happens to be an OE.
I like the three key values of Kindness, Ambition and Integrity, which I know Emma introduced, and it is good to see a concerted effort to persuade pupils to be both outward-looking and to develop a social conscience. Lastly, the recent awards – Independent School of the Year and Independent School of the Year for Wellbeing – suggest an ambitious, forward-thinking school.
Q. What are your core strengths as a Head, and how will these be felt by Epsom’s pupils and parents?
I am hard-working, driven and authentic, with a relentlessly positive outlook and a good sense of humour. I know every single pupil at my current school by name and I try to attend every match, concert, play and event.
I don’t like talking about myself, but I am told that I read and manage people well, that I build long-term and sustainable relationships, and that I bring the best out of those around me. I am straight-talking and I will be highly visible, always accessible, approachable and open.
Q. What is the biggest difference you made at Dauntsey’s School?
I was lucky enough to take over a very good school and I would like to think that I have made it even better. The school has grown from 760 to 870 pupils and boarding numbers have increased. There have been new developments and buildings including a classroom block, athletics track, dance studio and pavilion. Even more importantly though, the school is a place where pupils and staff want to be. It is a happy place, where pupils know that they must try their best, look after one another and approach each and every day with purpose, ambition, and a genuine sense of adventure.
I appointed a full-time Head of Adventure, and the programme that has been developed touches every pupil in the school and makes a real difference. The school’s world-famous tall ship is also an integral part of this programme.
Q. From what you have learnt about Epsom, what do you see as its biggest strengths?
The pupils. The staff. The leafy campus. And the way all those elements combine to create outstanding academic results, sporting success, and a co-curricular programme that is the envy of many Heads across the country.
Q. What are your priorities for the first term, first year, and longer term?
Initially, to get to know the school and its community and to win its trust. In the longer term, I want to run a school that strives for excellence in all areas, from academic life to sport, from the performing arts to pastoral care, and in every other area too. I want happy pupils, parents and staff. I want energy, ambition and success.
Q.Where were you when you were offered the role?
The Hare & Hounds pub, on Landsdown Road in Bath. I was travelling home from my interview in London, and decided to go via Bath so that I could watch Dauntsey’s 1st XI play hockey against Kingswood School. I was slightly early, so when the heavens opened, I ducked into the nearest pub for shelter. I had a cup of tea in my hand and was gazing out of the window at the breathtaking view of the city when the phone rang and I was offered the role. I was speechless and even though you might think it was a bit sad that I was on my own, it was a moment full of absolute joy.
Q. How do you see the future of independent education?
I think that the future of independent education is bright, despite the obvious challenges that a change in Government may bring, but challenges are there to be tackled and overcome. If we pursue excellence in every area and provide a truly outstanding education, then we can look forward with confidence, not fear. Partnerships will be more important than ever, and I would like to forge stronger links with schools in the state sector and overseas.
Q. Who is Mark Lascelles when he isn’t Head? Where would we find you during the school holidays?
Striving for anonymity at our house in North Cornwall. Holidays are spent on the beach, surfing, walking the dog – to our children’s disgust – and they are full of fun and laughter.
Sport is a big part of all our lives, whether playing or watching. My daughters play hockey, cricket, tennis and netball and, if I’m not cheering them on from the sidelines, I might be trying to stay in shape through running… and always hating every single step along the way.
The View From The Chair
We spoke to Alex Russell, Chair of Governors, about the appointment and Mark’s role in the future of Epsom College
Q. Having appointed Mark, and having been closely involved in every part of his recruitment, you are better placed than most to speak about his qualities. How would you describe him?
An experienced leader who has a track record of organisational transformation and sustained high performance across all aspects of his school over 12 years.
Mark has vast experience of leading co-ed boarding schools and will be able to navigate Epsom College through the challenges that face the independent sector with clarity and precision.
His performance history shows that he is an accomplished leader who will respect the College’s traditions while also innovating and embracing change to ensure that we thrive in a competitive market.
Q. What are the highlights of Mark’s career?
He has clearly done an excellent job at Dauntsey’s and though he would be far too modest to say it, Dauntsey’s is oversubscribed and at the height of its popularity in the region. But it probably says more about Mark if I tell you that his Chair at Dauntsey’s begged me not to offer him the job!
Q. What were you and the Board of Governors looking for in the next Head?
We set our sights incredibly high. We wanted a leader with charisma, intelligence, sensitivity and good sense, to both respect and build upon the legacies of Emma Pattison, Anthony Seldon and Jay Piggot. Not only does Mark have all of this, but he also brings a deep understanding of boarding education.
Q. What did Mark have, that made him the Board’s unanimous choice?
Charisma, passion for the role, clarity, excellent communication skills and a clear vision for the College. His vision was underpinned by pragmatism, leaving us assured that he would not only set a clear vision, but that he would know how to achieve it too.
He was honest, natural, and realistic. I was struck by the way in which he held the room. It is clear that he is a leader; and while he is a commanding presence, he is also open, a keen listener and very approachable. A good sense of humour helped too.
Q. What are Mark’s key priorities in the first term, and first year?
To get to know the Epsom College community properly, and to understand the school. Once he has done this, we want Epsom to be the go-to-choice in the region. I know from conversations we’ve had that Mark believes the current platform is strong and that the place is ready to fly.
Q. What about longer-term priorities? What is the Board looking for, strategically?
To be the fulcrum within a wide-ranging partnership comprising local, international and state schools for the benefit of students and staff at Epsom College, staff and students at the partner schools, and for the sector as a whole.
The Epsom brand will be synonymous with excellence in every aspect of education and will be a sector leader in both policy, innovation and practice.