Pay rise means Holland Park head gets £270k to run one school

One of the best paid academy chiefs in the country has received yet another pay rise and is now paid at least £270,000 to run just one school.

Holland Park School in Kensington, west London, has twice been asked to justify its high salaries by the government, which ruled earlier this year the single-academy trust had not broken funding rules when it spent thousands of pounds on luxury products.

Head Colin Hall was paid between £260,000 and £265,000 in 2017-18. The trust’s most recent accounts, published earlier this month, show his pay rose to between £270,000 and £275,000 in 2018-19.

Taking his pay at the minimum £270,000, this means Hall was paid at least £198 for each of the school’s 1,364 pupils.

In comparison, the country’s best paid academy boss, Harris Federation’s Dan Moynihan, was paid £440,000 or £13.75 per pupil to run 44 schools in 2017-18.

Hall’s salary has more than doubled since 2010-11, when The Evening Standard reported he was paid £130,000. Schools Week analysis shows he was the fifth highest paid trust CEO in England in 2017-18, despite his trust only having one academy.

Holland Park has three other employees paid between £110,000 and £190,000.

Although the government has challenged some academy trusts, including Holland Park, over the high pay of senior staff, it has no power to intervene to cut executive pay. However, some trusts have begun reducing leadership salaries.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said academy trust salaries “should reflect the individual responsibilitiy alongside local retention and recruitment needs” and must be “justifiable”.

Accounts also show that Holland Park School is still locked in a dispute with Kensington and Chelsea council over who should foot the bill to repair its £80 million school building which was completed in 2012.

Over the summer, the trust paid £250,000 to replace all non-laminated glass in its atrium, after concerns of repeated incidents of  sudden “glass breakages”.

Issues raised in their 2017-18 accounts are repeated in the 2018-19 set, including improperly fitted stone façade panels which are “not affixed to their steel railing as per the manufacturer’s instructions, making them loose and prone to falling off”.

The accounts say this has happened once to date, and raised concerns about the “integrity of the fire barriers” behind the stone panels.

The document also repeats concerns about flooding in the basement that is causing “potential irreparable damage” to the school swimming pool, and concerns about the potential for “unquantifiable structural damage” within the basement.

The school is still on a short-term lease rather than the usual 125-year lease given to academies while the government attempts to mediate in the dispute.

In March, a Schools Week investigation revealed that Holland Park School – once dubbed the “socialist Eton” – spent almost £15,000 on luxury Farrow & Ball paint over the last three years.

It spent a further £6,000 on Jo Malone scented candles – which it said were paid for through donations and other school-generated income – and more than £80,000 on carpets and re-covering furniture from an independent interior design store.

The school insisted its spending choices were “justified in the interests of students and staff”.

When presented with Schools Week’s findings, academies minister Lord Agnew said the government would be “looking into this matter further”.

However, the Department for Education confirmed in July that the trust had not breached funding rules.

In December 2017, Holland Park was one of the first 29 trusts to receive a letter from the Education and Skills Funding Agency asking for justification of high executive salaries. It received a second warning in February 2019. The DfE said it has challenged 278 academy trusts on salaries since 2017.

Holland Park School was approached for comment.

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  1. Mark Watson

    It’s hard to do anything other than splutter and react with outrage when an academy trust with only one school pays its Head over £270k, and three other staff between £110k and £190k.

    Trying to come at it from a different point of view though, what I’d like to know is where is all this money is coming from. Given the recent level of school funding, I don’t see how a school with funding from 1,364 pupils could possibly have enough cash to fund these types of salary without having made swingeing cuts elsewhere (and I don’t recall references to this type of thing in any previous articles). On that basis, given it’s ‘socialist Eton’ nickname, does it receive significant funding from other sources? Sources that are not ‘public money’?

    A quick look online and it seems there is a charity (the Holland Park School School Charity) which bumps up the amount of money the school receives from the DfE, plus I’m sure there are numerous private donors and other benefactors. This therefore is presumably where the money comes from to pay these inflated salaries.

    If this is the case then I’m not sure we, as the general public, have the position to demand things are done. If the situation is such that ‘public money’ pays £130,000 of Colin Hall’s salary and third parties use non-public money to pay him another £140,000 then they can do this. A PTA can decide to spend its money on whatever it wants, even if the school boiler is in danger of exploding, and this is no different (regardless of the quantum).

    However, like the situation with publicly listed companies where shareholders are increasingly questioning and blocking unwarranted remuneration packages, if I was a donor to Holland Park School or a trustee of the charity passing money to the school, then I would be asking questions as to why my donation was being used to pay salaries that are massively out of the norm, rather then being used to directly benefit the children (which is presumably what I had intended the money to be used for).

    As a donor to a charity I can choose how my money is to be used, for example I contribute to the ‘new sports centre fund’. However I can also impose restrictions – such as it cannot be used to contribute towards employee salaries.

    This may be the way to ensure the money is spent on the children, rather than on such salaries …