Funding crisis fails to halt rise in academy £150k pay

Increase in academy trusts paying the highest salaries came despite funding squeeze that saw more trusts in deficit

More academy trusts are paying at least one person at least £150,000.

The proportion of academy trusts paying at least one person more than £150,000 has risen by a fifth despite continuing funding pressures on schools.

The Department for Education today published its annual report on academy school sector expenditure and performance for the academic year 2017-18.

It shows that the number of academy trusts paying at least one person a salary of £150,000 or more rose from 121 in 2015-16 to 125 in 2016-17, then to 146 in 2017-18. 


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This represents a rise from 4 per cent of academy trusts to 4.8 per cent.

The report also reveals that almost a third of academy trusts now pay at least one person between £100,000 and £150,000.

The number doing this rose from 941 to 988 over the same period, which now equates to 32.4 per cent of academy trusts.

These increases came despite continuing funding pressures on schools, which saw the proportion of academy trusts in deficit rise from 5.9 per cent to 6.4 per cent between 2016-17 to 2017-18.

The total deficit of these trusts stood at £78 million in 2017-18, compared with £65 million in 2016-17.

In today’s report, the DfE said it has “taken steps to challenge and reinforce the message to the sector that there is a need for robust evidence-based processes in setting pay, and to ensure in particular that pay of leadership teams in the sector is transparent, proportionate and justifiable”.

As part of the effort, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has written to 213 academy trusts since December 2017 demanding explanations of high salaries.

Today’s report says: “Whilst the challenge to academy leader excessive pay was carried out during 2017-18 and has continued into 2018-19, any change as a result of these actions will take some time to be reflected in the note above and the full impact will be realised in future years.”

The report also includes information on trustees of academy trusts who are employed by the trust in other roles, and the pay they received.

A total of 110 were paid £150,000 or more in 2017-18, up from 103 in the previous year.

And 18 trustees received £200,001 or more, up from 16 the year before.

In his introduction to the report, academies minister Lord Agnew said: “We have continued with our commitment to ensure executive pay is proportionate and justifiable.

“I can confirm that we have acted on this information, challenging the trusts to justify this expenditure, and seeing alterations to this remuneration in 50 trusts by May 2019.”

The DfE has also published a list of academy trusts paying at least one person £150,000 or more, and is “seeking assurance from chairs of trustees that structured pay policies and procedures are in place where academy trusts pay any individual over £150,000 or two or more over £100,000 each”.

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