Ark trust pays £200k severance to former staff member over 'HR shortcomings'

Ark Schools paid £200,000 to a former staff member in a non-contractual severance settlement relating to “shortcomings in its HR process”, newly-published accounts show.

The figure is believed to represent one of the largest settlements recorded by an academy trust.

The sum, approved by the Education and Skills Funding agency as required for any pay-offs over £50,000, comes a time when the government is urging efficiency savings in schools.

The exit payment to the unnamed staff member, included in the trust’s accounts for 2018-2019 published on Friday, was agreed in connection with a” historical employment tribunal case”.

It read: “The details of the case and settlement are confidential. Although Ark Schools did not admit legal liability, this case revealed shortcomings in our HR process that we have now corrected.”

Ark Schools, which runs 37 schools in England, spent £423,513 on non-statutory or non-contractual severance payments in the last school year – compared to £317,850 in 2018.

Overall, staff reorganisation costs last year totalled £1,127,000.

The £200,000 severance payment is believed to be the joint-highest made by an academy since 2012. The Great Academies Education Trust paid out the same sum in the 2014-2015 school year.

An Ark spokesperson said it had put “a number of checks in place to mitigate against anything similar taking place again. Ark always strives to resolve employment issues in a fair and reasonable manner, while balancing the need to protect public funds.”

Government guidance states severance payments, specifically non-contractual elements, are “always under close scrutiny”.

Schools Week revealed the names of five trusts who had made severance payments above £50,000 without government approval in 2018.