'Unjustifiably high salaries' paid by some academies

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Some academy trusts in England stand accused of paying ''unjustifiably'' high salaries to trustees and depriving "the front line of vital funds."

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) highlighted how 102 academy trusts paid some senior staff over £150,000 a year.

And in two-thirds of cases where the government had challenged this, it had not been satisfied with the response.

The government said all trusts operated under a strict accountability system.

The committee's latest report on the finances of state-funded but privately run academy schools welcomed the first publication of an annual report on academy accounts.

But the PAC said: "Unjustifiably high salaries use public money that could be better spent on improving children's education and supporting front-line teaching staff and do not represent value for money.''

Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said academies needed to be held to account more effectively.

And part of this meant having access to transparent, detailed and timely information that could be judged in the same way the accounts of maintained, council, schools were judged.

Ms Hillier said: "More than two million pupils are taught by academies in England. The governance and financial management of these schools is fundamentally important to pupils' educational outcomes and future life prospects.

"If parents, Parliament and others are to hold them properly to account, it is vital they have timely access to transparent and detailed information.

"Excessive trustee salaries deprive the front line of vital funds. And it is alarming that, in two-thirds of cases where government has challenged individual trusts on pay exceeding £150,000, it has not been satisfied by the response."

Union debate

The committee report is published as the National Education Union (NEU) meets for its annual conference in Brighton.

A motion to its conference will call for a public inquiry into academy chain finances, including the pay of senior employees.

The teaching union, formerly the NUT, will also discuss the difficult funding issues faced by many schools.

Reacting to the PAC report, joint NEU general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: ''While most schools face brutal budget cuts, and teachers are experiencing real-term pay cuts, this report confirms what we have long known - that some academy trusts appear to be using public money to pay excessive salaries.''

The Department for Education said 450,000 pupils studied in academies which were previously underperforming.

It added: ''To ensure all pupils get the excellent education they deserve we continue to scrutinise the system on an annual basis and take action where necessary, such as recently asking all trusts paying high salaries to justify them.''

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