CEOs at tiny academy trusts paid more than big-chain bosses

Chief executives at some small academy trusts are raking in salaries as high as those with 10 times the schools under their control.

Exclusive Schools Week analysis has found 11 trusts with just two schools which nevertheless pay their leaders more than £150,000 per year.

In fact, 40 per cent of the 87 multi-trusts told to justify their boss’ high pay in 2016/17 had fewer than six schools.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency had told the trusts justify pay of more than £150,000 in February. This paper has now calculated the per-school salary for the highest-paid person in each trust.

Dayo Olukoshi, the executive principal of Brampton Manor Trust, runs a secondary school and all-through school but pocketed a minimum salary of £200,000. This is almost the same as that received by the boss of the Academies Enterprise Trust Julian Drinkall, who oversaw 66 schools last year.

As such, Olukoshi was paid £100,000 per school in his care, while Drinkall got just £3,000.

Top 10 best-paid bosses per school out of 87 trusts told to justify pay:

Brampton Manor Academy was rated ‘outstanding’ in all areas two months ago, but Langdon Academy, the Brampton Manor Trust’s other school, is on a ‘requires improvement’ rating it achieved two years after it joined the trust. A follow-up inspection found the school is improving rapidly. Schools Week approached Brampton Manor for comment.

But Micon Metcalfe, a fellow of the Institute of School Business Leadership, warned that the roles of bosses at small trusts is incomparable to CEOs at big trusts, as many of the former are still heads, and “almost certainly more involved in the day-to-day running of the schools”.

Comparing their salaries without a close analysis of their job role could be a “blunt instrument”.

At the 34 trusts running five or fewer schools, chief executives are taking home about £56,400 per school on average – significantly more than the £5,700 average salary per school for CEOs at trusts with 20 or more.

In one case, Schools Week has found that the highest-paid person in the accounts is someone other than the chief executive.

Comparing their salaries without a close analysis of their job role could be a blunt instrument

The accounts for Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust reveal the highest minimum salary is £150,000, but that chief executive Carol Dewhurst is on between £85,000 and £90,000. Schools Week has not had an answer as to why.

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, demanded to know how the government plans to prevent trusts paying such high salaries if they are not justified.

She pointed out that the Education and Skills Funding Agency had already written to numerous single-academy trusts telling them to justify any pay above £150,000, and had found two thirds of responses unsatisfactory, albeit without revealing what it intends to do about this.

Multi-academy trusts that pay more than one employee between £100,000 and £150,000 have now also been asked to explain themselves,.

But Phil Reynolds, senior academies manager at accountants Kreston Reeves, said the ESFA’s intervention powers are “unclear” because trustees can set pay as they wish.

The rules in the academies handbook say trustees must ensure their pay decisions “follow a robust evidence-based process, and are reflective of the individual’s roles and responsibilities”. This means the ESFA could terminate funding or issue a financial notice to improve if it “strongly felt” this had not been done, he said.

But “this makes the whole thing very subjective, and so the ESFA may struggle to intervene on this basis”.

Malcolm Trobe, the deputy general secretary of ASCL, said any disagreement between the government and a trust “would have to be resolved through dialogue” because trustees are not breaking any rules by setting high pay.

But he urged trusts to consider how all staff are being rewarded for their efforts before agreeing to any “significant differential” in pay.

Click here for the full list of multi-academy trusts told to justify pay, revealed through a Freedom of Information request.