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Tuesday, 26 July 2016 20:40

How School Bosses Spend Your Millions

Update: You will find a later article focusing on the salaries of Primary Academy Headteachers here, including the primary head with an annual salary of over £155,000

A recent  programme from the Channel Four Dispatches series with the above title focused on leaders of some Academy chains who are taking large sums of money out of the schools under their control, and away from the children's education.  

Issues in the programme focused on: huge salaries; what are called ‘related party transactions’ where business deals and services are connected back to the Trust; large expense accounts; and the exclusions of ‘inconvenient pupils’ often with Special Education Needs.  

I do not propose to go into detail about the general misuses of public funds uncovered, for you can read them in the accompanying article, but I have previously reported examples of scandals in Kent and Medway in various articles in this website, some referenced again below.

An analysis of some of the more prominent academy chains shows that size and performance bear limited connection with reward, the Head of one single school Academy Trust earning £176,000 last year. This was some £25,000 more than the CEO of Kent’s largest Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) which is responsible for 13 schools, and ten thousand pounds more than KCC’s Corporate Director, whose responsibilities include direct control of some 400 schools together with a wide range of essential services for all children and schools in Kent,  who was paid £166,353 in 2015, with just £1,010 in expenses, all on travel.

I have now looked at the accounts of a number of  MATs of  different sizes, and also Single School Trusts on the Companies House website. The overwhelming majority have their lead officer on a salary of less than £100,000, so the examples  below represent a small minority of the total in Kent. 

In 2014 - 15, one of the highest paid Principals in the country was the Head of a Single School Trust, judged by OFSTED to Require Improvement. Mary Boyle, Head of the Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, was paid £175,000 - £180,000 according to 2015 Accounts filed at Companies House, an increase of £20,000 over 2014. This included a performance bonus of £20,000. 

One never hears details about many of the heads of chains, with parents often not knowing who they are, including the mysterious departure of Dr Phil Limbert as Chief Executive from the Valley Invicta Academy Trust (VIAT) in Maidstone, as mentioned in passing without comment in the KM on 10th June. According to Downs Mail, he handed in his notice in May and left immediately, with apparently no ceremony. He has been airbrushed out of the VIAT website, and there are rumours about the reason for his departure. His salary of £165,000 in 2015 for oversight of six schools including two secondaries,and the coming Maidstone School of Science and Technology in September 2016 pales beside some others.

The Head of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust in Rochester also left recently after a disciplinary case reported in The Times that concluded without action being taken after (as?) she had resigned from the Trust, with a salary most recently reported as £215,000 (£190,000 - £200,000 in 2015), the highest I have come across.  

The Griffin Academy Trust was recently in the news following a disastrous OFSTED Inspection of Wayfield Primary, one of its schools. Here was a prime example of related party transactions with the a story in the Guardian reporting that: “in just two years the Trust paid over £700,000 to a company jointly owned by its two chief executives.Three other companies in which trustees of the charity have majority interests received smaller payments that amounted to around £100,000 for “educational consultancy services’”. Amongst other related party transactions, Company accounts note that £55,166 in 2015 (£71,992 in 2014) was paid to Sagacious Associates for school improvement services to Nick Hotchkiss, a Trustee and employee of the Company, now Headteacher of Fort Pitt Grammar School. However, just two employees were paid between £100,000 and £110,000. The Trust employed 225 teachers in 2015, along with 296 staff in administration and support, and 19 managers.

The Dover Federation for the Arts, a small Trust of four schools and a Nursery, including one secondary schools,, has its Chief Executive, Chris Russell on a salary of £150,000-£155,000, although he was seconded to the Duke of York's Military Academy as its Chief Executive, DFFTA receiving £98,000 in compensation as part of a quite complex Related Party Transaction between the two organisations, with Duke of York's being invoiced £166,000 for his and other individuals' services. Unusually, the Trust took out a loan of £!.4 million from KCC in 2012, at low interest of 1% for ten years, to meet its outstanding deficit. The other major related party transaction by DoYs was £26,788 for legal services to a company one of whose partners is a governor of the acacemy. 

Then of course there is the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust, about which I have written extensively elsewhere. One person commented on this article: “What a farce! When I read the article (and despite having a degree!), I struggled to keep up with the complexities of the movement of the various leaders between all the different arms of Lilac Sky! However, I can clearly see the almost total lack of accountability. Not to mention that most parents will have been, presumably, totally unaware of who was behind the running of this failing academy trust and what was going on. The fact that it all seems so hidden is very worrying. How long did it take the authorities to spot all this and how many educations were ruined in the process by this debacle?” In order to prepare this article, I have contacted Companies House to check on Trustees and Directors salaries. Lilac Sky is the one company where I have no details for as, not only are the 2015 accounts overdue, but those for 2013/14 do not appear to contain this information, surely against the regulations.

There is at least one Kent Junior Academy with just 400 pupils, whose headteacher is paid over £100,000 per annum (no other staff over £60,000). In this case, the school lent the headteacher £600 to fund a new computer, and the headteacher's sister was paid £1,766 for the edit and production of a short story book. 

 To counter these, there are many Trusts who appear to show a different approach, ensuring that Academy funds are put towards children's needs. I have cross-checked many academies of equivalent size and performance, finding a high proportion of leaders earning less than £100,000 per annum. Some examples of a more restrained pay policy include:

Kemnal Manor Academies Trust is one of the ten largest MATs in the country, with 41 schools, including 15 secondaries, across Kent and the South East, including SE London. The CEO was paid £150,000 - £155,000 in 2015. 

The largest Multi-Academy chain operating in Kent and Medway is the Leigh Academy Trust, with thirteen current and three forthcoming academies, including six successful secondary schools. The 2015 accounts show just three employees earning over £100,000 p.a.  with none over £150,000. Related Party Transactions amount to £660 for premises and maintenance work by the company owned by a governor. This excludes the work of Leigh Academies Trust for Kent and Medway Training, a school centred initial teacher training programme.  The Trust employed 862 staff: 656 teachers and educational support, 161 in administration and 8 managers, so starting to look like its own Local Education Authority!

The Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Trust in Medway, with three secondary schools and one primary had NO employee earning over £80,000 p.a. in 2015. Related party transactions are mentioned, but not identified.

The Brook Learning Trust based in Tonbridge, running three secondary schools, has just the CEO paid between £100,000 and £110,000, all other staff below this figure. There are No related party transactions. One of its schools, Ebbsfleet Academy had the highest number of permanent exclusions, and also referrals to Pupil Referral Units in Kent.

The Village Academy, a MAT of seven rural primary schools across Kent, has highest earner less than £90,000. 



Will Academy Executive Heads and CEOs at the lower end of the scale reading this argue that their salaries should match the highest earners, or will Boards of Trustees at the top end suggest that being paid more than the Corporate Director of Education and Young People’s Services for KCC is outrageous. My money is on a few leaders following the example of Captains of Industry!

Certainly the Headteacher Appraisal External Adviser, a retired headteacher who confided in me as a colleague that he considered a main objective was to ensure the headteachers he was appraising received as large an increase as possible, would be welcomed in many schools. To quote the CEO of one large academy trust: "As to salary rates, I too think they should be moderated for MAT leaders. It is a bit too much like the Wild West out there without a fair correlation between the level of challenge a post holds and the salary it receives. In my view that's the story".

Like the Dispatches programme, I am of the opinion that too much public money will be siphoned out of a some (a few) schools, diminishing the quality of the children's education in their care, until there is much more accountability of academies, for the structures too often invite misuse of those public funds because of greed, with the concept of public service going out of the window for a few.   

Last modified on Friday, 07 October 2016 20:49

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