Eight single-academy trusts questioned by the government over their high pay are still paying a leader at least £165,000, new figures reveal.
The salaries, revealed in the trusts' latest published accounts, were at least £10,000 higher than the prime minister's. And three of the trusts were paying their highest earner more than £200,000 in 2018-19.
The figures add to the controversy over high pay in the academy sector – particularly among one-school organisations.
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, told Tes she was unsure whether single academies or maintained schools paying more than £200,000 was a good use of public money.
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A government crackdown on high pay in the academy sector included a group of single-school trusts being asked to justify why they paid £150,000 or more at the end of 2017, before they set their budgets for 2018-19.
Controversy over academy pay
Now a Tes analysis of the annual accounts shows that eight out of 20 of the single-academy trusts challenged by the Education and Skills Funding Agency were still paying at least £165,001 in 2018-19.
Two other trusts were also paying above £150,000 in the past academic year but have taken on other schools since being challenged over their pay in 2017 so are no longer single-academy trusts.
In some cases the single-academy trust leaders are among the highest paid school leaders in the country.
Accounts for the Telford City Technology College Trust, which runs the Thomas Telford School in Telford, Shropshire, show it is paying its highest earner between £280,001 and £290,000.
This is a £10,000 salary band increase on what the trust's highest earner received in 2017-18. The accounts do not name the person receiving this money.
Holland Park School, a secondary in Kensington, West London, paid its headteacher Colin Hall between £270,000 and £275,000 in 2018-19, an increase from the £260,000 to £265,000 of a year earlier.
Accounts for the Kingsdale Foundation, which runs the Kingsdale Foundation School in south-east London, show that it has paid its highest earner more than £200,000 for the past three academic years despite being challenged over this twice by the ESFA.
Holland Park School, the Thomas Telford School and the Kingsdale Foundation School were all approached for a comment.
There has been controversy over levels of high pay among smaller academy trusts.
Ms Cruddas defended paying salaries of more than £150,000 for effective leaders of groups of schools but questioned high pay in single-school organisations.
She said: “ We do need to value leaders, we do need to value particularly effective leaders, who are running groups of schools.
“Where I am less comfortable on issues of pay is where you’ve got one person leading one school, either in the maintained sector or in the academy sector, on over £200,000.
"I’m less sure that’s a good use of public money, but I am very sure that paying the best leaders we have to run the largest groups of schools is good value for money, if we pay them over £150,000.
“It depends on the effectiveness of the trust; their ability to improve schools; their ability to improve outcomes. Why would we not value leaders? I can’t understand why the DfE would not value the best leaders we have in the system.”
This echoes concerns raised last year by Sir Dan Moynihan, the highest-paid school leader in the country, who leads the Harris Federation.
Speaking to Tes, he said: “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.”
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said last year that school leaders should not be paid more than the prime minister.
The annual salary of the prime minister at the time was £154,908, according to Downing Street.
Tes revealed last week that around a third of multi-academy trusts that were challenged by the ESFA for paying more than £150,000 have gone on to award pay rises above this in 2018-19.
When asked to comment on the findings of the Tes investigation, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is essential that we have the best people to lead our schools if we are to raise standards, but academy trust salaries should be justifiable and reflect the individual responsibility – particularly in cases of significant increases.
“Since 2017, we have challenged 278 academy trusts across the country in relation to their pay, and asked them to provide clear rationale for those receiving the highest salaries. We will be making further challenges in the coming months.”
Single-academy trusts paying £165,000 a year or more