Nearly half of academy chains under spotlight for six-figure salaries have offered more pay rises

'It is outrageous that academy bosses are accepting pay increases when school finances are tight'

Eleanor Busby,Ewan Somerville
Saturday 09 February 2019 18:33
Academy trust CEO pay has been in the spotlight over recent years
Academy trust CEO pay has been in the spotlight over recent years

Nearly half of the academy chains which have been ordered by ministers twice to justify awarding excessive salaries to their heads or chief executives have handed out more pay rises, figures show.

Academies minister Lord Agnew wrote to 28 academy trusts for the second time this week asking for reassurance that resources were not being diverted from “the frontline” for salaries.

An analysis, carried out by The Independent, has revealed that nearly half (48 per cent) of those academy chains, which already offer six-figure salaries, gave their CEOs or heads a pay rise.

The salary boosts come despite a government drive to curb excessive salaries. These chains have all been written to more than once by ministers and asked to justify paying bosses more than £100,000.

It also comes as teaching unions have warned of significant cuts to school staff amid squeezed budgets.

Of the 27 academy trusts which have published their financial accounts, 13 chains paid their bosses more last year than in 2017. In some cases, salaries rose by more than 10,000.

Among those to get pay rises was Keith Whittlestone, principal of Joseph Leckie Academy in Walsall, in the west Midlands, who was paid between £195,000 and £200,000 – an uplift of at least £5,000.

And Adrian Reed, CEO of the Boston Witham Academies Federation, which runs eight schools, saw his salary increase to between £230,000 and £240,000 last year.

The one-school trust Holland Park, an academy in Kensington in west London – once dubbed the “socialist Eton” – also featured in the group after awarding its head £260,000 following a pay rise.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee last year said academy trusts that pay their bosses “unjustifiably” high salaries could spend taxpayers’ money on improving children’s education.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is simply outrageous that, when school finances are so tight, these academy executives are paying themselves such large sums and accepting annual increases.”

She added: “It is time the government sorted out the free-for-all with academy finances so that taxpayers can be assured that scarce education funding is being spent in the best interests of children and young people.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “Our hardworking teachers have every right to be angry about years of real term pay cuts, as fat cat executives of multi-academy trusts continue to enjoy pay rises paid for by the taxpayer.

“Each year we’re seeing ever more serious scandals and evidence of financial mismanagement in an academy system that the government has let slip out of control.

“Our schools should not be used as cash cows for private profit, and when the cross-party Public Accounts Committee warns that our schools are being used for profiteering, it is about time ministers stopped brushing it under the carpet.”

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In a statement on the 28 academy trusts issued earlier this week, Lord Agnew, minister for the school system, said: “The best academies place freedom in the hands of school leaders but with that autonomy comes greater accountability and transparency, which is exactly why I am insistent that the salaries of their executives are justifiable.”

He added: “Just because we are advocates of the academies programme, doesn’t mean we won’t call a trust out where we believe they are not acting responsibly.”

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