MAT CEOs tell boards what they should be paid

Governors call for honest debate about whether power in academy trusts is concentrated in the hands of too few people

The National Governance Association warned that some academy trusts CEOs were telling their trustees what they should be paid

Some academy trust CEOs have been telling their boards what they should be paid, rather than going through due process, governors have warned.

The finding, in a National Governance Association (NGA) report published today, comes the day after the Department for Education tightened the rules about how the pay of academy leaders is set.

The NGA document, "Moving MATs forward: the power of governance", says: “In isolated cases, NGA is aware of trusts that have allowed their chief executive to present the board with proposals for their own pay for the trustees to then decide if this is fair or not, rather than undertaking a due process.”


Quick read: DfE crackdown on academy leaders’ pay

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This comes despite the DfE’s Academies Financial Handbook, which sets out financial requirements for academy trusts, saying: “No individual can be involved in deciding his or her remuneration."

Power within academy trusts

Tom Fellows, research manager at the NGA, and co-author of the report, told Tes the issue comes down to “ethical decision-making”.

He added: “Just as in any organisation you wouldn’t expect someone to be making decisions about their own pay, you would be expecting that conversation to be had by the trustees and by the management structure around them.” 

Today’s report recommends: “Trust boards must be able to justify their executive pay decisions to stakeholders, including parents and the taxpayer, and have the confidence to say ‘no’ in the interests of pupils and the public.”

The report examines the implications for school governance of the move from single academy trusts to multi-academy trusts over the past decade.

It highlights concerns that power in academy trusts is being “concentrated into the hands of too few people” – their members, who have the power to appoint and remove trustees – or boards which are “made of up of small groups of like-minded individuals, which are distant from their schools and communities”.

The report calls for “thorough, honest and open debate” about four questions:

  • Is the role of trust members in MATs currently concentrating power in the hands of a small number of individuals? 
  • Is school improvement best served by geographically dispersed MATs?
  • Should growing MATs above a certain size be discouraged?
  • What are the implications of the changing role of school leaders in MATs and how might this work best?
     

Mr Fellows described the challenge facing the MAT sector as “significant”.

He added: “When you have public failings in multi-academy trusts, you can see governance had a big part in those.

“What we have identified is that governance can also be the solution to a lot of the problems that MATs are currently facing, and if the DfE and others within the sector really focus on getting governance in MATs right, it could be a model that really works.”

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