Multi-academy trusts (MATs) with chief executives and other employees earning over £150,000 have been asked to justify paying these salaries.
Eileen Milner, the chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, has written today to the chairs of 87 MATs employing individuals earning more than this amount, asking them to explain their rationale for doing so by 9 March.
The letter asks chairs to consider a range of factors when looking at high pay, including additional benefits, length of notice period and whether pay is performance-related.
The intervention comes two days after the Department for Education minister, Lord Agnew, said that no MAT boss should receive a larger pay increase than their teaching staff and that CEOs should have their pay cut if there is a downturn in the performance of their schools.
It follows a similar letter sent in December to single-academy trusts paying leaders more than £150,000.
Tes understands that every MAT in the country with employees paid more than £150,000 will receive a letter, with the exception of eight trusts who are in the process of being wound down.
Two versions of the letter are being sent – one will be sent to trusts deemed to be at greater risk of financial difficulty, but the majority of MATs whose finances are not a concern will receive a different version.
A DfE spokesman said: “Pay for executives must reflect the individual’s responsibilities and we expect salaries to be justifiable.
“This letter asks MATs paying salaries of more than £150,000 to provide a rationale for doing so and the responses will help ensure we can challenge trusts to use a robust, evidence-based process when setting salaries.”
The government's clampdown on high pay follows a longrunning Tes investigation into executive remuneration in academy trusts.
Last May, Tes revealed "secrecy" surrounding pay packages in the sector, with a number of MATs that awarded their CEOs large pay increases refusing to share the metrics that were used to judge the executives' performance.
And in November Tes found that the country's top-paying trusts had approved increases for their bosses of up to 141 per cent, while the teaching profession has received an overall annual pay increase of 1 per cent in recent years.