Education & Family

Teachers' union urges limits on pay of academy bosses

Man holding coin Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Too many academy chief executives receive excessive salaries, the conference heard

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) conference in Liverpool has voted to lobby against "excessive pay" for academy chief executives.

Some academy bosses "have decided to treat education as a gravy train and are milking schools", Leicestershire delegate Simon Clarkson told the conference.

Too many multi-academy trusts have "fat cat" bosses he said.

"As well as being immoral, it is unsustainable," Mr Clarkson added.

"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 multi-academy trust sector have now," he said.

"They do not and they do not for good reason."

Taxpayers' money

Tim Jefferson, from Norfolk, said the level of responsibility for chief executives who run several academy schools was in no doubt.

But, he added, the issue was with their pay and a lack of transparency in pay increases - particularly in the context of the education sector where most staff are on modest salaries.

"This is after all taxpayers' money," said Mr Jefferson.

"Yes, being a chief executive is a huge responsibility,

"There are no government rules or guidance on how this pay should be set. This needs to change," he concluded.

According to Mr Clarkson, the excuses used to justify "excessive CEO pay are myriad... our response however should be simple".

"We should say no to any multi-academy trust chief executive earning an excessive amount and certainly no to any chief executive earning more than a local authority chief executive in the area where the headquarters of the multi-academy trust is based."

Proposing the motion, Bob Groome from Norfolk highlighted a number of trusts, including Ormiston Academies Trust, whose outgoing chief executive, Toby Salt, earned £205,001 to £210,000 in 2015-16, up from £200,001 to £205,000 the previous year.

'Driver of success'

The debate came after figures were published in February which showed that a number of academy bosses saw their salaries rise last year, with some earning significantly more than the prime minister.

A Times Educational Supplement (TES) analysis of the accounts of 20 academy trusts ranked Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, as the highest individual earner, earning £420,000 to £425,000 in 2015-16.

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".

The union conference passed the resolution with 98% of delegates in favour.

But, according to a Department for Education spokeswoman, official limits on executive pay are not on the agenda.

"It is for governing bodies to determine the salary that school leaders will be paid," she 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," the spokeswoman added.