Revealed: The academy trust behind a £200k severance deal

The Great Academies Education Trust, set up by a housing group, has paid £200,000 severance to a former employee – one of the largest exit payments recorded by an academy.

The trust was not named when the Department for Education (DfE) revealed the bumper pay-off in its first academy sector finance report published in November last year.

Great Academies runs three schools in the north-west of England. It was set up by the New Charter Group, a social landlord that owns more than 19,500 homes.

The £200,000 payment was made during the 2014-15 school year, and is the highest severance pay recorded by an academy trust since 2012.

Great Academies said the settlement was agreed by the government

A spokesperson for the trust said the settlement was a “long and complex employment tribunal case” that was “ultimately suspended to enable the parties to engage in a judicial mediation process.

“The payment was made without the trust accepting liability but on the basis that, upon legal advice, the settlement offered the most economic advantageous outcome for the academy and for the preservation of public funds.”

The Education Funding Agency has strict rules on such deals. Trusts must write a business case for each one, which the agency can demand to see so that it can check value for money.

Trusts must also get approval from the secretary of state for deals of more than £50,000.

Great Academies, which would not reveal the name of the staff member involved, said the settlement was agreed by the government.

Academies, with the DfE and its agencies, spent £58 million on exit packages in 2015-16, a sharp rise on the £49 million in 2014-15.

Schools Week has previously revealed some trusts have spent more than £250,000 on severance payments.

Ark, which runs 35 schools, spent £291,618 in 2015-16 – up from £82,037 in the previous year, with the Greenwood Dale Foundation, which sponsors 31 schools, spending £256,000.

DfE accounts originally stated two trusts had made exit payments in the £150,000 to £200,000 bracket.

However, the Elliot Foundation Academies Trust had recorded a payment in this bracket “by mistake”. Its highest severance payment for that year was £74,000.

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