Revealed: The school academy chains paying bosses over £150k a year

Classroom and Graham White of NEU.

Some academy trust bosses are paid than £150,000 a year Inset: Graham White of NEU. - Credit: PA/Tudor Morgan-Owen

Top managers at Norfolk and Waveney school academy chains took home salaries of up to £230,000 last year, with some receiving pay rises despite national pledges to slash wage bills.

Earning more than a third over the Prime Minister's £150,000-a-year salary, Ormiston Academy Trust paid a top salary of £200,000-£210,000 in 2019/20, giving its highest earner up to a £10,000 pay rise.

It comes amid a crackdown by the Department for Education which has been sending warning letters to trusts with bosses earning more than £150,000. 

Secondary school pupils

The Department for Education has been sending warning letters to trusts with bosses earning more than £150,000. - Credit: PA

REAch2 Academy Trust, which runs primary schools in Lowestoft and Beccles, including Northfield St Nicholas, Phoenix St Peter Academy and Gunton Primary, paid its highest earner between £220,000 and £230,000 in 2019/20, putting a higher salary listed in 2018/19 down to accounting errors. 

“The CEO's salary has remained the same for the last four years, and reflects the fact that REAch2 is the largest primary-only academy trust in the country,” a spokesman said.

Graham White, National Education Union’s national executive member for Norfolk and Suffolk, labelled the sums "excessive".

“I would argue that these are excessive salaries for the roles they have to carry out - you don’t need to charge that much,” he said.

Graham White of National Education Union.

Graham White of National Education Union. - Credit: Andy Abbott

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“Clearly, the head of an academy trust has an important role, but I would argue that the person in charge of children and young people in Norfolk, Suffolk or Essex, has an even bigger job and they are paid nowhere near £200,000.”

Basic pay for a qualified teacher in England is £25,714 a year, according to Prospects - meaning top paid executives are earning approximately five-and-a-half times the salaries of the average teacher.

Ormiston Academy Trust runs both secondary and primary schools locally including City of Norwich School, Cliff Park Ormiston Academy in Great Yarmouth, Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston, Flegg High in Martham, and Ormiston Denes Academy in Lowestoft.

It said pay for senior staff is set following a robust review and market benchmarking process. 

It takes into account excellence and performance as leaders of one of the largest trusts in the country, a spokesman added, with the chain responsible for educating more than 30,000 youngsters in 40 schools nationwide.

“We are proud of the high standards of education we deliver in all our academies – many located in areas of real disadvantage – and this leadership has been to the fore throughout Covid-19, which has presented the most challenging circumstances to provide education and care for children in almost 80 years," they added.

Children's commissioner Rachel de Souza.

Former Inspiration Trust CEO now Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza. - Credit: Tom Barnes

Others taking home pay packets over £150,000 included Dame Rachel de Souza of the Inspiration Trust, which runs 14 schools across Norfolk and Suffolk - who has just secured a top Government job as children's commissioner. 

The former CEO took home up to £10,000 more in 2019/20, with a pay package of £160,000-£170,000 - which bosses said takes into consideration overall performance and experience.

A spokesman added remuneration for CEOs are benchmarked against their competitors, and “reflects responsibilities and expectations placed on the individual”. 

West Norfolk Academies Trust, which runs schools including Springwood High and St Clement's High in King’s Lynn and Smithdon High in Hunstanton, paid its highest earner between £150,000 and £160,000 in 2019/20.

In a note on its accounts it said its highest pay reflected the “significant responsibility” of oversights of its 11 member schools.

“Alongside this they retain full headteacher responsibilities for their own large secondary school,” it added. 

Salaries for the top earner at Academy Transformation Trust, which runs 21 schools including Iceni Academy in Methwold and the Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham, was £180,000-£190,000, up £10,000 on the previous year.

Primary school classroom

Some school academy trust bosses are paid than £150,000 a year. - Credit: PA

The highest earning Norfolk schools boss in 2018 had been Valerie Moore, of the Norwich-based Boudica Schools Trust, who was paid a total of £235,000 the year she left. She stepped down in September 2018 after six years and the role was taken over by Don Evans.

Latest accounts for the trust show the highest earner in 2019/20 was paid between £110,000 and £120,000.

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