DfE top boss handed £278k payout to leave after exams fiasco

Jonathan Slater had just eight months left in post, but was pushed out in spate of perm sec departures

Jonathan Slater had just eight months left in post, but was pushed out in spate of perm sec departures

16 Dec 2021, 17:45

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The Department for Education handed former permanent secretary Jonathan Slater a £277,780 payout to leave last summer – just eight months before his term was due to end.

The department’s annual accounts reveal Slater walked away with the lump sum “for loss of office”, though his exit is described as an “agreed departure”.

Slater left the top civil service post after the prime minister signalled the need for “fresh official leadership” last summer.

It came amid the fallout from the government’s ill-fated grading algorithm last summer, as well as a wider civil service shakeup. He was the fifth permanent secretary to leave in six months.

The payout meant Slater is recorded as taking home a total of £380,000 in 2020-21, including not only the lump sum but also his regular salary and pension benefits. He was only in post for five months of the financial year.

Slater’s annual salary was recorded as between £165,000 and £170,000 in 2019-20.

The former mandarin told Schools Week earlier this year the first he heard of his potential imminent departure was an enquiry from a Times journalist.

“When you become permanent secretary, part of that is the risk that you might be asked to step down,” he said in September.

With Slater taking office in May 2016, and permanent secretaries on permanent contracts but serving in the roles on five-year terms, he was just eight months away from his term ending.

It is not known whether Slater, now 60, would have wanted to stay on, move elsewhere in the civil service or retire.

Downing Street said at the time that Slater had agreed to stand down “in advance of the end of his tenure in Spring”.

A government spokesperson said then the cabinet secretary wanted to “put on record his thanks to Jonathan for 35 years of public service.”

But civil service managers’ union FDA accused the government of “scapegoating civil servants” at the time.

Before joining the DfE, Slater served as director of the prime minister’s delivery unit, chief executive of the office for criminal justice reform and in a number of director-general roles in other departments. He was replaced by Susan Acland-Hood.

The government has sought to clamp down on high public sector exit payments in recent years, as some have proved controversial.

Special severance payments above £95,000 require Treasury sign-off, and academy trusts require sign-off for all payments over £50,000.

A £95,000 cap on such exit payments came into effect two months after Slater’s departure, and was then swiftly abandoned three months later after a legal challenge by unions.

Slater and the Department for Education have been approached for comment.

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