#ATLconf17: Union will lobby Greening over ‘excessive’ and ‘immoral’ academy CEO pay

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has voted to lobby the government over “excessive” chief executive pay in academy trusts, demanding new rules and guidance for schools.

Delegates at the ATL’s annual conference in Liverpool today overwhelmingly backed a motion on CEO remuneration and called for tighter rules.

It comes after Schools Week’s annual analysis of chief executive pay found a huge disparity in salaries of chief executives and the size of their organisations.

This has to stop. As well as being immoral, it is unsustainable

Simon Clarkson, a teacher from Leicestershire, reminded the conference this morning he had warned two years ago that unions must “guard against the rot of greed in terms of executive headteacher pay”, and said things had “got even worse” since.

“Executive headteachers have morphed into CEOs and the number of obscene salaries paid has increased,” Clarkson said.

“A small number of people have decided to treat education as a gravy train, and are milking schools, taxpayers and the funds that should be there for the children for all their worth. This has to stop. As well as being immoral, it is unsustainable.”

Bob Groome, from Norfolk, claimed the top nine chief executives in his county earned more than £1m between them in 2015, four times the amount paid to the head of children’s services.

“The government say that they are paying more money than ever into education, and now we know where it is going.

“It should go to properly educate our children with good quality, experienced, qualified teachers, instead of unqualified instructors or support staff and not line the pockets of the few who think they have a right to make a buck from our children’s education.”

Tim Jefferson, also from Norfolk, said being a chief executive was a “huge responsibility”, but warned there was a “distinct lack of recognition that this is public money that could be better spent elsewhere”.

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

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

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

Lord Nash, the 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”.

But Vicky Browning, from the charity chief executive leader membership body ACEVO, previously told Schools Week that 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.”

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  1. Good. This “problem” is hugely distasteful to taxpayers and needs sorting. Pay our beloved class subject teachers a fair salary and reduce the variance between CEO and school teaching staff. Let those who want to, walk, to the private sector – this is an idle threat and their greedy shoes can always be filled by other more aultruistic leaders. Also, many private schools are very well run on tight budgets with fees paid by hard-working parents, and most do not pay extortionate salaries.

  2. Mark Watson

    By my quick calculation we have over 1,100 MATs, therefore over 1,100 CEOs. We are all aware of those CEOs that receive the most money, but what is the actual bigger picture?
    SchoolsWeek’s annual analysis, referred to above, only seemed to look at the 12 highest-earning CEOs. What about the other 1,088?
    If we’re looking at all 1,100 of them feathering their nests with salaries of over £150,000 then it would seem to be a substantive issue that affects the whole sector. If the overall average is well south of £100,000 then there should be a different discussion. Like so many things relating to the education sector I don’t think we have enough information to come to sound and reasoned judgments and therefore people revert to political type. (Why the DfE won’t publish benchmark salary figures though god only knows).
    It would be interesting to know how many of the 1,100 CEOs are paid more than the £139,963 that the General Secretary of the ACL received in 2015 …

    • Janet Downs

      The DfE gave academy trusts freedom to set their own salaries therefore it’s unlikely it would publish a benchmark.

      Academy Trust Accounts are supposed to disclose how many staff received pay over £60k (I think). These are usually listed in £10k bands above £60k. It should be possible, therefore, to search academy trust accounts to find the info you want.
      I searched academy trusts running secondary academies in a small corner of Lincolnshire (Stamford, Bourne, Spalding and The Deepings). There were two single academy trusts, one with just two academies, and three large MATs: CMAT, Education Development Trust (was CfBT) and DRET. Two of the largest hadn’t submitted accounts for y/e 31/8/16 with Companies House. That doesn’t mean accounts are overdue at the DfE (they’re supposed to be with the DfE by the end of December) but it seems odd if Companies House haven’t got them as well. I’ve submitted an FoI to DfE to discover how many academy trusts didn’t submit their accounts by 31 December but that’s a separate issue.
      The average pay of the highest member of staff in my sample trusts was £128k. This should be treated with caution: I had to use data for y/e 31/8/15 for two academy trusts; another listed its highest paid employee as in the band £100k-£200k which is rather wide (I split the difference and used a figure of £150k in my calculations).
      It appears from my unrepresentative sample that the average pay for the highest paid academy trust employee is not ‘well short’ of £100k. However, it would be interesting if you could find similar figures for your area of the world.

      • Mark Watson

        I think that it needs this kind of detailed investigation. You looked at Lincolnshire, I looked at Gloucestershire.
        There are 9 MATs in Gloucestershire. Most of them have the majority of their academies within the county, though AET have 5 out of their 61 within Gloucestershire.
        Taking all the MATs together, the average salary for MAT CEOs seems to be £94,444.
        This includes two outliers – AET’s CEO got £237,500 and OUR Co-operative Academies Trust’s CEO appears to have received nothing. Discounting these two would give an average salary of £87,500.
        Other than AET, only 2 of the other 8 CEOs received more than £100,000.
        Quite different to Lincolnshire. I wonder which is more representative of the national picture. I genuinely don’t know, and I think that’s the sort of information which would properly inform this debate.

        • Janet Downs

          The difficulty is that it’s too much for individuals working alone to sift through enough academy trust accounts to reach a representative sample. Your nine and my six (two of which were stand-alone trusts) don’t meet the sample size criteria. And then there are problems such as accounts for year ending 31 August not being on Companies House website at the same time they’re supposed to be with the EFA (31 December). There are a surprising number of these, hence my FoI request. There are also outliers skewing the average although I suspect that it’s these outliers that cause anger.

          • Mark Watson

            I completely agree. The problem as I see it is that the outliers on the ‘high side’, i.e. the Harrises, AETs etc., seem to be presented as the norm. My, admittedly very basic, look into Gloucestershire MATs identified one CEO apparently receiving no payment and one receiving £20,000. I have never seen any story on CEOs which discussed this side of the coin.
            You only have to look at the comments on this page to see how they all assume CEOs are vastly overpaid and are milking the system. Not an entirely unsurprising consequence of the stories put out there by the media.
            I agree that producing all the data would be a big job. However when the various media outlets, such as SchoolsWeek, talk about this subject they all talk about a review/analysis of CEO pay. If they’re talking about it being an overall review then they should do the work to make sure it is an overall review and not just a sensationalist snapshot.

  3. Despite what other comments may say,the bottom line is that teachers are paid a woeful salary and yet they are the ones at the coal face delivering the education to the children of this nation.I do understand that CEos need a good salary but so do our teachers and we read on a daily basis the problems the UK is facing with recruitment.I also agree that union leaders need a reality check when a look is taken at their salaries and the question that needs to be asked is how much real effort are they putting in to getting teachers a salary that other countries seem to give their own teachers.Union leaders must lead by example and go out on a limb and really fight for those they are supposed to represent.I wonder what education in the UK will look like in 10 years time!!

  4. Janet Downs

    The Academies Financial Handbook says ‘Salaries paid should be appropriate to the individual’s skills and experience and the salary rates paid in the wider market.’ No doubt those CEOs who are paid huge salaries could claim they were ‘worth it’.

  5. The problem is structural. There are a much larger number of MATs than there ever were local authorities where previously you had a single DCS responsible for all the schools in the area and each school with a single headteacher on a regulated salary level. Now you have several thousand Executive Heads on unregulated salaries but with the schools in their chains still requiring some form of senior leadership on each site to manage the day to day running of the school. I can see very little added value in terms of the quality of what children are experiencing for this boom in leadership pay. These Executive Heads don’t appear to see themselves as public servants in the way that DCS’s or Directors of Education used to do and they appear to expect remuneration on the same basis as private sector equivalents. This is sadly what happens when you stop viewing education as a public good and start marketising it. Start adding to these costs the cost of running two separate systems for monitoring and maintaining schools in this very fragmented system and you are likely to have a huge bill for no apparent gain whatsover. It’s already been realised that these two systems aren’t talking to each other properly and now an even greater web of bureaucracy is going to be needed to manage the links between the fragments. A complete and utter dog’s breakfast with the inbuilt potential for corruption, nepotism, naked ambition and greed. An awful mess.