Academy school bosses' 'immoral' pay packets must be stopped, education sector told

Academy school leaders have come under fire for taking home 'obscene' salaries of up to £430,000 last year - more than double that of the Prime Minister

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The Independent Online

Academy trust bosses are taking home “immoral” pay packets, while teacher salaries and school budgets suffer, a teaching union has heard.

A small number of people are treating schools as a “gravy train”, milking the taxpayer for as much as possible, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' (ATL) annual conference was told.

Ministers need to set rules on chief executives' pay to curb exploitation, it was suggested.

Simon Clarkson, a delegate from Leicestershire, said: “Over the last two years things have got even worse.

“Executive headteachers have morphed, in a way that certainly has not been mighty, into CEOs, and the number of obscene salaries paid has increased.

“A small number of people have decided to treat education as a gravy train, and are milking schools, taxpayers and the funds that should be there for the children, for all they are worth.

“This has to stop,” he added. “As well as being immoral, it is unsustainable.”

The debate comes after figures published in February showed that a number of academy bosses enjoyed dramatic pay rises last year, with some taking home salaries around two and a half times higher than that of the Prime Minister.

A Times Educational Supplement (TES) analysis of 20 academy trust accounts named Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, as the highest individual earner.

Sir Dan, whose trust is responsible for running 37 academy schools, saw his pay packet rise from £395,000-£400,000 in 2014/15 to £420,000-£425,000 - higher than that of most university vice chancellors.

Meanwhile, teachers argue they have had a real-terms pay cut, with many receiving pay increases of just one per cent last year.

Speaking to the conference, Mr Clarkson said: “If it were sustainable, the older and more mature private sector market of independent schools would have fat cats in the way the academy and MAT (multi-academy trust) sector have now. They do not, and they do not for good reason.

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Seconding a motion calling for ATL to lobby government to ensure that the salaries and expenses of chief executives working in education trusts are not excessive, Tim Jefferson from Norfolk said that the position of CEO is an important role.

“When you look at the job description, the level of responsibility is clear,” he said. “There's no doubt in this. The issue is with the amount of remuneration. Especially in the education context, and a lack of transparency in pay increases. This is, after all, taxpayers' money.

“Yes, being a CEO is a huge responsibility. Supporting students is a huge responsibility, teaching students is a huge responsibility, leading a school is a huge responsibility. There are no government rules, or guidance, on how this pay should be set. This needs to change.”

Proposing the motion, Bob Groome from Norfolk highlighted a number of trusts, including Ormiston Academies Trust, whose outgoing chief executive Toby Salt, took home £205,001-£210,000 in 2015/16, up from £200,001-£205,000 in 2014/15.

The union passed the resolution with 98 per cent of delegates in favour.

A Harris Federation spokeswoman said at that time that the trust had transformed some of London's most challenging schools, and that its board “recognises that leadership is among the key drivers of our success, so leaders throughout our federation are rewarded for their contribution”.

A Department for Education spokesperson highlighted that it was up to governing bodies to determine school leader salaries. Changes to pay introduced in September 2014 mean they now have ability to decide on individual salaries to "incentivise" teachers in challenging roles, they department added.

A spokesperson said: “It is vital we have the best people to lead our schools if we are to raise standards and ensure all pupils can reach their full potential. That’s why we have given all schools greater flexibility to set staff pay, reward exceptional leaders and attract strong leadership teams to work in the most challenging schools.

"This is in contrast to the old system which awarded teachers' pay rises simply for time served, regardless of whether or not they were doing a good job.”

Additional reporting by PA

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