Last year the chief executive of the Harris Federation became the first academy leader in the country to break the half-a-million pounds barrier.
The £550,000 pay and benefits package enjoyed by Sir Dan Moynihan only added to his unasked-for role as a lightning rod for criticism of CEO pay in academy trusts.
But in an exclusive interview today, he makes the unexpected move of calling for more scrutiny of high pay for academy leaders.
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Sir Dan told Tes: “What matters is the outcomes for kids and if we’re managing our budgets efficiently and the kids are getting a good deal.
“If you’ve got very large salaries and it's one school or two schools, that needs a closer look, I think.
Academy bosses' pay
“But it’s different when there is a large number of schools and [the trust] is doing well and disadvantaged kids are making progress.”
The Harris chief, who runs 48 academies, did not mention any particular academy trust or leader in terms of where he thought pay should be looked at.
However, a number of academy leaders in charge of much smaller numbers of schools are also on salaries higher than the prime minister's.
When Tes asked Sir Dan about recent comments by education secretary Gavin Williamson that no MAT boss should earn more than the prime minister, he said: “I respect Gavin Williamson, but the prime minister’s salary doesn’t reflect the rewards the prime minister gets.
"I mean they all go on and make speeches and earn lots of money and become part of hedge funds and they do all sorts of things. What matters is how effective a group of schools is for the kids that are in those schools.”
Sir Dan was speaking after delivering a speech on financial planning at the Schools and Acadamies Show in Birmingham. He told how his own trust had saved £5 million last year by achieving "economies of scale" throughout the schools.
Savings included £270,000 on photocopying after schools were taken out of “mad” contracts, and a £280,000 saving on catering contracts.
When Tes asked him if those savings alone had paid his salary, he said: “I have to be very circumspect in what I say here. Whatever I say I’ll be killed for.”
He pointed out that Harris had raised £2.7 million in sponsorship last year from charitable trusts and benefactors, and that part of the money was now being used to pay for a free nursery school in a disadvantaged area in Peckham, South London. He said similar projects were in the pipeline.
“Savings we have generated have allowed us to employ a central education team," Sir Dan said. "They are full-time employees who work in the EBacc subjects.
"They will come in and take classes and be responsible for key groups, and will take them for as long as is required if a school loses a member of staff. If there is one thing that has led to consistency of performance, it is that central team.”