This head got a record #163;40k 'golden hello', but after just four years he's off

21st May 2010 at 01:00
My name was splashed all over the north London press before I even started the job, but people don't realise that it was not easy moving into London from the shires

Aydin Onac, departing Fortismere head

A headteacher who received a controversial #163;40,000 golden hello to run one of the most successful comprehensives in the country is leaving his post.

Aydin Onac was paid a signing-on bonus when he took over at Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, north London, prompting criticism about the use of public money.

The payment, first revealed in The TES, was believed to be the highest of its kind ever paid to recruit a head.

At the time of his appointment four years ago, Haringey Council's then director of children's services, Sharon Shoesmith, wrote to the school's chair of governors stating: "'I would ask you to consider seriously whether you believe a payment of this magnitude is proper use of public money in accordance with your responsibilities.

"I have to say that I do not and, should you decide to proceed, this has to be in the knowledge that it is against my advice."

The school's decision was supported by the Association of School and College Leaders, which said it was legitimate to spend money. The school had struggled to recruit a head prior to Mr Onac and was run under an interim leader for a year before he joined from Tewkesbury School in Gloucestershire.

Exam results at Fortismere improved between 2006 and 2009, with the proportion of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, increasing from 64 to 73 per cent.

Mr Onac also oversaw the school's contentious move to foundation status in 2007, making it independent from Haringey Council.

In September last year the admissions policy was changed to admit 10 per cent of children on their musical aptitude. This prompted complaints to the schools adjudicator, although they were not upheld.

Mr Onac will take up a new headship at St Olave's Grammar School in Orpington, Kent, this September.

He will be replaced by Helen Anthony, head of Central Technology College in Gloucester.

The school's governors have refused to comment on whether any conditions were attached to the golden hello paid to Mr Onac, or whether a similar deal has been offered to the incoming head.

Jules Mason, chair of governors, said in a statement: "I wasn't actively involved in Mr Onac's appointment and am not in a position to comment on the conditions attached to the payment. Mrs Anthony's appointment has been done in accordance with the necessary regulations."

Hank Roberts, Brent secretary for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the NUT, who has campaigned against excessive pay, said: "There is the question of what exactly are bonuses for? Why do you need #163;40,000 to have a good head; it's a nonsense.

"They have more than #163;100,000 in a secondary headteachers' pay scale. That is a very good payment."

Mr Onac said: "When I move on from Fortismere in September, I shall look back on (my period of) headship as the most exciting and challenging in my whole career.

"My name was splashed all over the north London press even before I started because of a 'golden hello', but people don't realise that it was not easy moving into London from the shires."

THE STAKES ARE HIGH

According to government figures, 220 heads were earning more than #163;100,000 a year in 2007. However, those numbers are believed to have increased significantly with the growth in the number of academies and executive heads leading school federations.

In his last budget statement, then chancellor Alistair Darling said that all public sector workers, including headteachers, earning more than #163;150,000 a year would have their salaries published and justified.

The Tories have said they will freeze public sector pay for one year for people earning an annual salary of more than #163;18,000.

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