Trusts must publish £100k-plus salaries on their websites from September

Academy trusts must publish on their websites the number of staff paid over £100,000 from September.

The change forms part of the new Academies Financial Handbook, which has also ruled trust cash cannot be used to buy alcohol (unless for use in religious services) and aims to professionalise the role of finance officers in academies.

The handbook, which is updated each year, outlines the financial management rules all trusts must adhere to.

Academies minister Baroness Berridge, who took over from Lord Agnew earlier this year, said she’s been “enormously impressed with the standards of financial management achieved by academy trusts”.

She said the “great majority” of trusts have reported a cumulative surplus and received an unqualified opinion on their accounts from auditors.

She wrote: “Academy trusts have also led the way with accountability and transparency, making available an increasing amount of information to the public about how trusts are governed and performing financially.”

New requirement in CEO pay ‘crackdown’

The new requirement on publishing salaries over £100,000 is part of the government’s battle on rising executive salaries.

While trusts already publish such information in annual accounts, the handbook states the pay must also be published on its website in a “separate readily accessible form”.

The information will be laid out in a similar format to that in the annual accounts: the number of employees whose benefits exceed over £100,000, in £10,000 bandings, based on the most recent financial statements.

However, there’s no requirement to name those paid over £100,000 – just to list their salary. Benefits to be included in the remuneration banding include salary, other taxable benefits and termination payments, but not the trust’s own pension costs.

Push to professionalise finance roles

There’s also a push for larger trusts to employ finance officers with relevant accountancy qualifications. The handbook says this is something bigger chains – those with over 3,000 pupils – are “encouraged” to consider when filling chief finance officer vacancies, alongside ongoing training for the role.

Furthermore, all trusts must “assess whether the CFO, and others holding key financial posts, should have a business or accountancy qualification and hold membership of a relevant professional body, dependent on the risk, scale and complexity of financial operations”.

Berridge said the “value of a relevant financial qualification can be a great boost to your role as CFO”.

Reminding members of their responsibilities

Berridge said she wanted to “place greater focus on members remaining informed and their role in ensuring that the board is exercising effective governance”.

Members sit above trustees in an academy trust, and have a similar role to shareholders of a company.

The new handbook states that members must be provided with the trust’s audited annual report and accounts so they can be “assured that the board is exercising effective governance”.

Another new requirement is that trusts “must appoint a clerk to support the board of trustees who is someone other than a trustee”.

The board of trustees are also reminded they must ensure financial plans are “prepared and monitored, satisfying itself that the trust remains a going concern and financially sustainable”.

They must also take a “longer term view of the trust’s financial plans”. Berridge said this was part of “emphasising this year the board’s responsibility to maintain the trust as a going concern”.

Whistleblowing must be published

Other changes include trusts being required to publish whistleblowing procedures on their websites. This is something the government had promised to look into following investigations by Schools Week around concerns with a lack of protection for those speaking out in some trusts.

All trusts will also have to complete the government’s school resource management self-assessment tool. Berridge said would help trusts “appraise their approach in key areas of resource management and governance”.

The the option for internal audits to be performed by a trust’s external auditor has been removed, and trusts have also been reminded to keep their register of interests up to date.