Minister 'at war' over academy CEO pay defends Moynihan's £440k salary

A minister who claims to have “declared war” on excessive executive pay in academies has ruled that the £440,000 annual salary of England’s highest-paid academy chief is “reasonable”.

Lord Agnew, who is leading the Department for Education’s clampdown on largesse in academy pay, told Schools Week he had spoken to the Harris Federation about the pay of Sir Dan Moynihan, its chief executive, and deemed it appropriate because of the size of the trust, its financial situation and outcomes for pupils.

Harris’s accounts show Moynihan earned between £440,000 and £445,000 and received between £50,000 and £55,000 in employer pension contributions in the year to August 31, 2017. He received a £20,000 pay rise last year.

Agnew, appointed as minister for the school system last September, wrote to academy trusts earlier this year warning them they were “not being rigorous enough” in curbing excessive pay.

In an exclusive interview with Schools Week this week, Agnew said he had “declared war” on excessive pay and that officials had had “very stiff conversations” with some trusts.

“We’re nailing them. I’m after them,” he said.

He revealed he had convinced a further 11 trusts to cut the pay of their highest-paid employees, on top of the 43 that have already done so.

He said he had “personally” spoken to Lord Harris, the founder of the Harris Federation, but had ruled that Moynihan’s pay was “reasonable”.

“You have to take the cost per pupil and the educational outcomes of the trust,” he said. “So if you split the 40,000, or however many kids Harris has got, against the salary Sir Dan is being paid, and you look at the educational outcomes, I think it is reasonable.

“The problem we have had is that weak governance of other trusts have seen this big headline figure and they’ve kind of, in a rather complacent way, said ‘oh, he’s being paid half a million a year, therefore it’s probably OK’. That was a huge mistake, and that’s what I’m seeking to undo now.”

Analysis by Schools Week in the spring revealed that Moynihan is paid the equivalent of £10,000 for each of Harris’s 44 schools, and the equivalent of £13.75 a pupil.

Agnew said Harris had “done an incredible job”, adding: “It is an extraordinary thing. How many other trusts are as good as that?

“What gets my goat is mediocre trusts who are paying large sums of money; that’s where my energy is deployed.”

Official records show that between his appointment last September and June of this year, Agnew met with two academy trust chairs about executive pay, including Alan Winn of the four-school Rodillian Multi-Academy Trust. It paid Andy Goulty, its chief executive, at least £220,000 last year, equivalent to £55,000 a school or £70.20 a pupil.

The trust confirmed that, “following that meeting, discussions took place between the trustees and Andy Goulty who agreed to a pay reduction”, but would not say what his salary now was.

Agnew also met David Johnson, the chair of the four-school City Learning Trust, which paid its chief executive Carl Ward between £195,000 and £200,000 last year. The trust did not respond to requests for comment.