The government has written to all multi-academy trusts that are paying a salary of £100,000 to £150,000 to multiple employees, to ask them to justify why they are setting wages at these levels.
Letters from Eileen Milner, the chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, will go out to the chairs of trustees at 47 trusts that paid a salary in this bracket to two or more members of staff in 2015-16.
Schools Week understands that around 90 trusts actually fall into the category, but about half have already received letters as part of a wider clampdown on excessive executive pay.
Fewer than three per cent of all trusts pay more than one salary in the £100,000 to £150,000 bracket, according to the ESFA, and the agency wants to know the “process and rationale” of those who have chosen to pay out this much.
The letter is the third of its kind sent out by the government. In December last year, the agency wrote to the trustees of academy trusts with just one school that had staff earning more than £150,000 a year to ask for justification of the salaries.
In February, Milner wrote to 87 multi-academy trusts with staff paid more than £150,000 a year, asking for similar justification. That same month, the academies minister Theodore Agnew wrote to chairs of all academy trust boards urging them to take their financial responsibilities seriously, and not to over-reward trust bosses.
In the latest round of letters, Milner recommends that MATs that pay two or more staff £100,000 to £150,000 each explain details such as as the roles and responsibilities of those receiving the high salaries, the percentage of time they spend teaching (if any), and any challenges the trust is facing, such as financial or geographical problems.
If the money is going to non-teaching staff, the letter requests details of the length of contract notice provision, length of probationary period, and any benefits in addition to the base salary.
“We would expect the remuneration committee to minute its rationale for awarding any salaries within £100,000 to £150,000 per annum, distinguishing between teaching and non-teaching staff,” the letter says.
“It should also show that it has scrutinised and approved all other emoluments such as eligibility to participate in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, travel, accommodation, bonuses, notice periods and holiday entitlement.”
The ESFA expects pay rises for non-teaching staff “to mirror, not exceed, those awarded to teaching staff”.
Last month a Schools Week investigation revealed that out of 24 MATs which had more than 20 schools, two-thirds of the chief executives had received a pay rise in 2016-17.
The amount handed out to leaders at the largest trusts rose by £118,000, from £3.9 to £4 million.
“Multi-academy trusts receive a significant amount of public money – it therefore right that the salaries of their executives are justifiable,” said Agnew. “I have already asked trusts paying wages of more than £150,000 to set out the rationale for doing so and am now asking trusts paying two or more people more than £100,000 to do the same. This information will allow us to challenge trusts and ensure that where high salaries are awarded there is clear evidence for doing so.”
Any additional information from MATs must be submitted to the government by April 27.