Academy bosses may have started to take voluntary pay cuts, but critics want to see an external organisation tackle the issue.
They believe that the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which advises the government on teacher pay, could help to bring in a more structured approach to remuneration for academy executives.
Tes can reveal that two former review STRB members think that multi-academy trust (MAT) CEO pay should come within the body’s remit.
The STRB gives recommendations on the pay, professional duties and working time of teachers in England and Wales.
Its work informs the annual school teachers’ pay and conditions document, which local authorities are obliged to follow. While academies do not have to follow the document, in practice many choose to do so.
The body does not currently make any recommendations above headteacher level. But former member Peter Dolton believes it should also cover executive heads and other MAT leaders.
“My view is that the salaries of these executive heads should be under the guidance of the STRB,” the Sussex University economics professor, who served on the body between 2009 and 2011, tells Tes.
“When I was on the STRB we looked quite carefully at heads paid very high wages. Some of them are paid too much.
“Like [university] vice-chancellor pay – if you leave it to executive boards or trustees, they can, and do, end up paying salaries that are far too high to be coming out of taxpayers’ money. This is a personal view born of years of pay review body experience.”
The view that the remit of the STRB should be extended is shared by Jonathan Crossley-Holland, an education consultant and former director for children’s services at Sheffield City Council, who served on the STRB from 2012 to 2015.
“There’s a fundamental problem here about the public-private model,” he says. “Are these private organisations or are they public? If they are serving a public purpose, then the pay ought to reflect a view about what public purpose organisations should pay.”
With academies currently outside the school teachers’ pay and conditions document, he says leaders can “do what they like, and they do do what they like”.
“You’ve got some ludicrous examples of heads running three schools paying themselves enormous amounts.
“I do think they ought to operate within a public framework and maybe the STRB is one.”
Crossley-Holland adds that he “can’t see any justification for paying over £200,000”.
The idea of the STRB expanding its remit is welcomed by union leaders. “CEO pay, executive head pay needs to come within the remit of the STRB,” says Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union.
“Then you can have a sensible discussion about what these jobs actually entail.
“You could come to a conclusion about the job weight and job worth.”
Bousted argues that the boards of trustees governing MATs are currently “filled with business people” who have adopted “business-like practices that are simply inappropriate”.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, says: “The pay and benefits of CEOs should be part of a formal framework like that of most other teachers and school leaders in order to give clarity to employers and to provide transparency about how public money is being spent.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, agrees on extending the body’s purview. “The STRB has no remit for academies, which is an issue of concern to us,” she says.
Jonathan Owen and Will Hazell