Academy CEO pay: Salaries soar, but who comes out on top?


Our annual analysis of chief executive pay in the largest academy chains once again reveals a huge disparity in the salary of chief executives and the size of their organisations.

For the first time we analysed the pay per pupil, as well as the pay per good or outstanding school.

Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, topped both our tables. As we have previously revealed, his pay rose from £395,000 in 2015, to £420,000 last year.

That works out at more than £16 for each pupil and is nearly four times as much as the £4.32 per pupil paid to Jon Coles, chief executive of the United Learning Trust.

Unions have claimed that academy reforms – such as pay deregulation – have resulted in soaring salaries that drive “massive disparities”.

Pay rises across the chief executives in the top ten chains totalled nearly £90,000 – with three receiving increases of at least £20,000 in the past 12 months.

Two other trusts, however, cut their chief executive wage after recruiting new bosses. The Greenwood Academies Trust, for example, saved £35,000.

Teachers’ pay scales inched up by 1 per cent again this year.

Pay rises driving disparities

The salary of Toby Salt, chief executive of Ormiston Academies Trust, rose £25,000 from £180,000 in 2015, to £205,000 last year – up 14 per cent – and was awarded on top of a £30,000 pay rise in the previous year.

A trust spokesperson praised Salt’s performance, adding Ormiston had “never shied away from taking on some of the toughest challenges in education”. Ormiston has taken over two new schools since 2015.

Meanwhile at the David Ross Education Trust (DRET), chief executive Wendy Marshall was awarded a £20,000 pay rise (13 per cent) from £150,000 in 2015 to £170,000 last year. The trust did not take on any new schools during those years.

Marshall is now paid more than £14 for each pupil, second only to Moynihan. DRET said it did not comment on individuals’ pay.

Highest paid

Biggest % pay rise

Lowest per good school

Lowest per pupil

The cost of outstanding schools

Our second analysis found Moynihan is paid £14,483 for each good or outstanding school, compared with just £5,244 for Ian Comfort, the former chief executive of Academies Enterprise Trust.

A spokesperson for Harris said the trust’s board “recognises leadership is among the key drivers of our success, so leaders throughout our federation are rewarded for their contribution”.

Moynihan has pushed REAch2 academy trust boss Sir Steve Lancashire from his top spot in our tables last year. His pay per good school dropped from nearly £25,000 to £13,000.

It follows REAch having another eight good or better inspections from 2015 – although just under half of its 55 schools are still to be inspected.

How does pay compare to other charitable sectors?

An analysis of chief executive pay at the largest 100 charities, published by Third Sector trade magazine in 2015, found healthcare charities topped the tables with salaries of up to £850,000.

The average pay across the top 100 charities was about £210,000, which is slightly above the £195,250 average pay for the 12 largest academy trusts.

Charities running independent schools also featured in the analysis. Accounts from 2015 show the highest earner at Eton College was paid at least £230,000.

The report found the overall income of charities had “little bearing” on chief executive pay.

High pay for few schools

As Schools Week revealed in February, a growing number of academy bosses are now paid more than £200,000 a year for running just a handful of schools.

John Tomasevic, who heads the four-school Torch Academy Gateway Trust, was paid at least £260,000 in 2016 – which would make him the second best-paid chief in our tables.

It’s also not just academy bosses that are well paid. Sir Craig Tunstall, executive headteacher of the Gipsy Hill federation of eight local-authority maintained primaries in south London, was paid more than £330,000 in 2015.

Concerns over trustees’ salary setting

Vicky Browning, from the charity chief executive leader membership body ACEVO, said any “insistence on lower pay at any cost” would result in migration to the private sector. “This would leave not only charities, but our communities worse off.”

However, the National Governance Association (NGA) has lobbied the government to publish benchmark salary figures to help governing boards to set pay.

The government has not done so, but said such information was available to trusts when requested.

The NGA has urged governors to have “courageous conversations” that sometimes “should involve saying no” in pay discussions.

Lord Nash, academies minister, also wrote to chairs in October to stress the importance of establishing and monitoring policies for executive salaries so “that you and your trustees would be confident to expose them to public scrutiny”.

Academy Trust CEO Pay Per Pupil

Academy Trust CEO Pay Per Good or Outstanding School

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  1. Naureen Khalid

    “The average pay across the top 100 charities was about £210,000, which is slightly above the £195,250 average pay for the 12 largest academy trusts.”

    This was interesting (as well as reassuring?).

  2. Mark Watson

    OK, to be clear I think that challenging what Academy CEOs are paid is a very good thing. Any CEO, whatever their salary, should be able to justify what they are paid and that it gives good value to their schools. There are without doubt CEOs being overpaid.
    However, I find there to be a staggering level of hypocrisy here. In the Editor’s Comment section this week Laura McInerney says about this story that “we’re aware that it’s an imperfect measure. It focuses on academy trusts where there are highly-paid heads of maintained schools – something that we have addressed this year”.
    I repeat “something that we have addressed this year”. Did anyone notice this? I presume she’s referring to the one sentence, buried in the article, that says “Sir Craig Tunstall, executive headteacher of the Gipsy Hill federation of eight local-authority maintained primaries in south London, was paid more than £330,000 in 2015”.
    Let’s look at this in a bit more detail and compare the local-authority paid Mr Tunstall with Dan Moynihan, who is plastered all over this article as being the most extravagantly paid CEO whether you look at it on a per pupil basis or a per good/outstanding school basis.
    In that big green box above these comments it states in massive type that Dan Moynihan is paid £16.04 per pupil. How about the fact that Craig Tunstall is paid £83.23 per pupil? (over 5 times higher than Dan Moynihan and over 19 times higher than the CEO of ULT which Dan Moynihan is compared to)
    Dan Moynihan is paid £14,483 per good or outstanding school. Craig Tunstall is paid £41,250 per good or outstanding school. (almost 3 times higher than Dan Moynihan and almost 8 times higher than the CEO of AET which Dan Moynihan is compared to)
    So why isn’t the appropriate level of light being shone on this by SchoolsWeek? Could it possibly be because it doesn’t fit with the academy-bashing agenda?

      • Mark Watson

        Sorry, it actually is one sentence buried in the article.
        The fact that SchoolsWeek had covered the story in more detail previously is no justification for not giving it appropriate prominence here. They’ve covered Dan Moynihan’s salary in countless previous articles but saw fit to rehash it all here. They didn’t even acknowledge that they’d covered Tunstall previously – why not include a link to that article here?
        The whole point of this story was to showcase the biggest salaries paid in education, both academies and the maintained sector, if we are to believe the editor’s comments. However nowhere did it point out that the biggest salary by far (on the two models used) was in the non-academy maintained sector.

      • Mark Watson

        Thanks for the link to the article though which is very helpful.
        I do just find it interesting that the article didn’t give the most prominence to quotes from the Council (as the legal employer) or the school which “set his pay”. Instead it led off with a rant from the national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance who valiantly tried to explain away the LEA’s actions as being solely a result of the academies system. (Presumably LEAs aren’t able to think by themselves according to Alasdair Smith).
        Why on earth was the Anti Academies Alliance involved in the piece at all? Their stated purpose is to oppose the academies programme – what has this to do with the story being discussed? No-one was even asked to counter the ludicrous points he made – that’s not exactly balanced journalism is it?
        Can’t you see how this just reinforces the objective view that the coverage of all of this isn’t itself objective?

  3. These are scandalous amounts of public money when you consider the salaries of Chief Executives and Directors of Children’s Services within County Councils many of whom are responsible for the outcomes of hundreds of schools. It’s ironic that this story is published on the same day when the news is full of the 11% budget cut to be experienced by schools. Time for an immediate review of these public sector salaries – this money should be spent on high quality teachers and headteachers not ‘Chief Executives’

  4. It is historically proven to state that any labour organisation where the difference between leader salary and worker salary is too large will eventually lead to unrest (teacher strikes), poor performance (stress induced), and weak outcomes(child mental health issues). These salaries are paid to risk-takers who can comfortable walk away when things turn sour. What about fair funding for all schools, especially those outside affluent areas? What about paying teachers a fair salary for their professional status? And how about putting the education of all our children first before profit? An altruistic leader would put these considerations first before extortionate pay.

    • Mark Watson

      Does your point relate to unions as well?
      The General Secretaries of the various teaching unions aren’t exactly paid in the same bracket as their members.
      NUT – £150,160
      ATL – £139,963
      NAHT – £150,902
      NASUWT – £132,858
      ASCL – £153,928

  5. This demonstrates much of what is wrong with the UK education system.People are becoming tired of seeing these types of articles again and again when teachers are so poorly paid.Teacher unions can surely put a stop to this because teachers in other countries would not tolerate what their UK colleagues have had to endure for a long time now.Sadly,we keep writing about this and nothing is done and it is not hard to understand why there is a teacher shortage up and down the country.This is only going to get worse and teachers who have left and gone abroad have stated that pay and conditions are much much better and are treated like the professionals we know they are.This seems to be the way forward because sadly nothing is going to change soon.

  6. With regard to the teacher unions,I certainly think that they too need to stop and think carefully about their own salaries which seem very high compared to the teacher in the classroom.They need to really help their members get a decent salary and have to engage seriously with the government because after all they are supposed to be there for their members who do not receeive the salary that they should.Again,it is no wonder many teachers are opting out and going elsewhere.

  7. I have just been looking at AET a/cs. Interesting to look at other salaries:
    2016 Accounts: 176 were paid over £60k, decreases to 144 in 2017 a/cs;
    2017 accounts: 19 over £100k – decreased to 14 in 2018. – In that time, AET offloaded some schools.
    Perhaps some academies are getting the message.