Academy trust in £122k severance pay deal despite 'significant' challenges

An academy trust in Norfolk paid out a severance package of £122,000 to one employee in a year in which it faced “significant” financial challenges.

The Right for Success Trust, which runs 11 schools – most of them primary – was the only trust to pay more than £100,000 in a single exit package during 2017-18.

However, the trust’s accounts admit to “significant financial and operational challenge” and a “deterioration” of its financial position during that year, due partly to taking on three new schools with deficits.

It would not say who received the money, but insisted all payments were “subject to strict scrutiny”.

Valerie Moore, the trust’s chief executive and accounting officer, left in August 2018 after receiving a remuneration package of between £235,000 and £240,000 for that year, up from between £120,000 to £125,000 the year before.

The £122,000 severance figure was detailed in the annual academy sector accounts published in July, but Schools Week made a freedom of information request to find the trust’s name.

High pay-offs, however, may be coming to an end.

In April, the government announced a £95,000 cap on pay-offs for all public sector workers, including school staff, although a spokesperson for the Treasury said no date had been set for when this would come into force.

Our freedom of information request also revealed the two trusts that paid more than £100,000 in single exit packages in 2016-17.

Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) paid £108,000, despite being under a financial notice to improve, while the single academy St Edward’s Church of England Academy Trust, based in Staffordshire, paid £102,000.

A spokesperson for AET said the “majority” of its payment was contractual and authorised by the government. Any severance payments above £50,000 must be approved by the Education Skills and Funding Agency and the Treasury.

St Edward’s was contacted for comment.

In 2014-15, Great Academies Trust paid £200,000 to one unnamed employee. However, exit packages of more than £100,000 remain rare, with just seven agreed in the academies sector since September 2015.

A spokesperson for Right for Success said it could not comment on individual cases, but insisted all payments were “subject to strict scrutiny, are fully compliant” with funding rules.

A Department for Education spokesperson said academy trusts must “justify” any non-contractual severance payments and ensure they represented value for money. All exit packages were paid in accordance with each trust’s compensation schemes.