The rules governing academy chief executives’ pay packets are being toughed up as criticism grows over the sizes of salaries.

In its 2017 financial handbook for academies, published today, the Department for Education has set out a new requirement that academy trustees “must ensure that their decision about levels of executive pay follow a robust evidence-based process”.

Academy leaders’ pay must meanwhile be “reflective of the individual’s role and responsibilities”.

The DfE’s tougher new stance appears to follow increasing public alarm over the spiralling pay packets of some academy bosses.

Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of Harris, is the highest paid of all, earning at least £420,000 a year, but Schools Week has found a growing cadre of chief executives breaking through the £200,000 mark, even when they run just a handful of schools.

In his foreword to the report, academies minister Lord Nash, wrote: “Whilst objectivity and impartiality are essential in financial management I expect the boarder framework of behaviours offered by the ‘seven principles of public life’ to continue guiding everyone in your trust so that money is spent wisely and honestly.”

The handbook now also emphasises separation between members, trustees and employees so as to promote “objectivity and reduce concentrations of power” – a change apparently inspired by several government investigations that found trust bosses who were also trustees, and in some cases, members as well.

Ian Cleland, chief executive of Academies Transformation Trust, breached the rules earlier this year when he used his powers as founding member to sack the trust’s chair, who had placed him on temporary leave.

And last week, investigators criticised the DRB Ignite multi-academy trust after they discovered certain managers were also members and trustees.