Revealed: Wage bill for academy bosses soars to £17m despite funding crisis
PUBLISHED: 08:03 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:49 27 January 2020
Wages for top managers at academy chains have soared by a quarter, despite a funding crisis gripping the region’s schools.
The wage bill for education chiefs at academies running Norfolk and Waveney schools shot up by 25pc in 2018 to £17.7m, from £13.9m the year before.
The highest paid individuals at each academy alone earned £3.4m in 2018, up 15pc from £3m the previous year, according to accounts published on Companies House by the region's 32 academy trusts.
At the same time £4.4m was spent on redundancy and severance payments for staff.
Campaigners have labelled the sums "excessive", particularly as tight school budgets have seen teaching and support workers cut.
An EDP investigation in 2017 found 30pc of the 75 schools surveyed were slashing support for vulnerable children while 60pc were cutting investment in buildings and equipment.
The Department for Education said trusts paying more than £150,000 to executives would be challenged.
Former Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) chief Ian Cleland was paid £215,000 in 2017, making him the highest earning boss that year of academy trusts operating schools in our region.
He resigned in November of that year after the Education Funding Agency (EFA) found "inadequate financial management" at the Birmingham-based trust, which runs the Iceni Academy in Methwold and the Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham.
He faced criticism after an investigation by the Guardian newspaper found he had used taxpayers' money to lease a Jaguar car, for first class rail travel and dinners at top restaurants.
A spokesman said the trust took governmental guidance into account when setting pay.
He added: "We are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure we make best use of public money and in recent years have undergone processes to achieve this."
The highest earning boss in 2018 was Valerie Moore, of the Norwich-based Boudica Schools Trust, who was paid a total of £235,000 the year she left.
She stepped down in September 2018 after six years and the role was taken over provisionally by Don Evans.
Mr Evans said the trust could not comment on individual cases, but added: "All payments made to employees are subject to strict scrutiny, are fully compliant with [EFA's] academies financial handbook and are accounted for in line with the academies accounts direction."
But Scott Lyons, National Education Union (NEU) Norfolk joint district secretary, said: "After years of real-term budget cuts to school funding, it is impossible to justify this level of executive pay. "People will, understandably, be asking how any school chief executives can take home a salary nearly double the prime minister's at a time when school finances are so tight.
"Excessive salaries deprive schools from having money urgently needed for smaller class sizes, teachers and school resources."
Liberal Democrat party leader on Norfolk County Council Ed Maxfield said: "Academy chains seem to have got further and further away from the communities they serve."
He said he has invited the regional schools commissioner Sue Baldwin to explain how she is holding the trusts to account.
The Inspiration Trust, which has 13 schools in Norfolk, paid out the most to senior management in 2018 - £2.18m, which increased from £1.79m the year before.
In both years, at least £150,000 went to chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza.
A trust spokesman said senior management made up around 7pc of overall salary costs in 2018.
The trust also paid out the most in redundancy and severance payments in 2018 - £217,000, which decreased from nearly £387,000 in 2017.
The spokesman said this was due to the trust experiencing changes after taking on a new academy.
Last year, Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT), which runs 11 primary and secondary schools in Norfolk and Waveney, announced it was looking to cut staff.
But the plans were dropped following a public consultation in November.
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The trust's accounts shows OAT paid senior figures £905,500 in 2017 and £851,000 in 2018.
This included the earnings of former chief executive Toby Salt, who was paid £163,700 in 2017, and the current boss Nick Hudson, who was paid £184,000 in 2018.
A spokesman said: "Leading our organisation is a hugely important role and remuneration of all senior staff, including our chief executive, takes into account the excellent job they do. It is set following a review and market benchmarking and in line with government guidance."
At Eastern Multi-Academy Trust, which runs schools in King's Lynn, Downham Market and Thetford, payments to senior figures rose from £1.14m in 2017 to £1.6m in 2018.
A spokesman said this reflected the trust taking on a new academy which increased management staff from 13 to 18.
Meanwhile, former chief executive of Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN Group) Richard Palmer was paid £190,000 in 2017 - the second highest that year.
Trustee Andrew Barnes said: "The TEN Group's model of leadership and management has changed significantly over the last three years. Our structure no longer includes the role of TEN Group chief executive."
Labour Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said the figures were a product of years of "imposing market and business ideology on education".
"Until we end this system, and return our schools to all of us, that system will still be there to be gamed and exploited by the people at the top of it," he added.
At Creative Education Trust, pay to senior leaders, including the executive, went up year-on-year.
Management staff pay went up from £843,000 in 2017, to £935,00 in 2018 and £1.16m last year.
At the same time, chief executive Marc Jordan's salary went up from £170,000 to £180,00 and finally £190,000 over the three years.
The trust, which runs five schools in Norfolk, including Caister Academy, declined to comment.
At the Yare Trust, chief executive Ian Clayton was paid £130,000 in 2017, which increased to £140,000 in 2018 and 2019.
Mr Clayton said his salary included two jobs as he was also headteacher of Thorpe St Andrew School before retiring in September 2019.
He said he had taken a pay cut and is now earning 60pc of his previous salary.
Mr Clayton said his pay was calculated based on the large number of students he and the trust were responsible for.
"The high salary is based on national pay conditions," he said. "It's not a figure plucked out of the air."
The amount paid to senior management also increased, from more than £463,000 in 2017 to £756,000 in 2019.
Mr Clayton said this reflected the trust growing with the inclusion of North Walsham Junior, Infant School and Nursery in 2018.
Government challenge executive pay
Academy trusts must follow a financial handbook issued by the government when making decisions on funding, including executive pay.
Academies are funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) rather than a local authority and are run by a trust, which employs staff and have trustees to govern the school.
On setting executive pay, the ESFA's handbook states decisions must be recorded, be evidence-based and reflect the individual's role and responsibilities.
Last year, the Department for Education (DfE) published further guidance, stating salaries must be "justifiable, reflect individuals' responsibilities and demonstrate value for money".
The DfE said trusts that pay a salary of more than £150,000 have been challenged.
A spokesman said: "The government is committed to curbing excessive executive pay in a tiny minority of trusts and has challenged 278 academy trusts across the country relating to their pay since 2017."