Academy Trust Chiefs’ salaries continue to soar

17 Aug

I        Schools Week throws light on runaway salaries

It’s unsurprising that both, the producers and consumers, of educational policy and practice in the United Kingdom, especially in England are transfixed by the exorbitant salaries many Chief Education Officers of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) are drawing, given that the country’s schools and academies are going through financial straits.   In March 2018, Schools Week published an article based on an analysis that the magazine carried out of the MATs where each had at least 20 academies in them.  The results make compelling reading.

There were huge variations between the salaries of men and the per pupil funding of each MAT.   The headline information was as follows.

  • The highest paid CEO was Sir Dan Moynihan of the Harris Academy Trust at £440,000 annually – £10,000 per academy.
  • The CEO who secured the highest pay rise was John Murphy of the Oasis Community Learning Trust who went from £180,000 to £205,000 – £4,183 per academy – a 14% rise.
  • The lowest paid was John Mannix at Plymouth Cast Trust at £55,000 annually at £1,527 per academy.
  • The lowest paid per academy was John Coles of United Learning at £160,000 annually and £3,018 per academy.

While Sir Dan Moynihan – who heads 44 academies in the Harris Trust – received a £20,000 pay increase in 2017/18, he earned less than half the amount per pupil than eight other CEOs earned.  However, he earned more than three times that of Julian Drinkall, the new CEO of the country’s large chain, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), which has 64 academies in the trust.

Sixteen of the 24 trusts with more than 30 academies received pay rises, though three diocesan trusts were unable to share their data with Schools Week within the time-frame given.  In case of the Academy Transformation Trust, the accounts had yet to be published.

John Murphy received a £25,000 uplift.  Sir Dan Moynihan of Harris and Toby Salt CEO of the Omiston Academy Trust were each given a pay rise of £20,000.   (Salt has now been succeeded by Nick Hudson).   However, CEOs at four trusts took salary cuts or started at lower salaries than their predecessors, i.e. Mannix at Plymouth Cast, Drinkall who succeeded Ian Comfort at AEO, Martyn Oliver at Outwood Grange Academy Trust who replaced Sir Michael Wilkins and Rowena Hackwood at David Ross Academy Trust, who filled in the vacancy caused by Wendy Marshall’s resignation.

Three CEOs stayed at the same salaries, though they took on more academies: John College at United Learning who took responsibility for an additional eight academies, Wayne Norrie of Greenwood Academy Trust at £170,000, though he absorbed two special academies (formerly schools) and Libby at Astrea Academy Trust, who accepted another six academies though staying at £130,000.

Notwithstanding the exemplary behaviour of several MAT CEOs, teacher unions have been up in arms at learning about their exorbitant salaries especially as teachers had been restricted to 1% pay increases annually. (The situation this year improved with teachers on the main scale receiving a 3.5% pay increase.[1])  Mark Wright of the National Education Union (NEU) remarked that research by the Centre for Education Economics in 2016 observed that there was no evidence linking leadership with pupil outcome.   [It’s worth bearing in mind that Britain’s Prime Minister earns £150,000, 9circa) annually.]  Wright observed that while leadership was supposed to support what occurs in the classrooms (where teachers spearhead the work), it appears to be the other way around, with teachers supporting CEOs and their demands.   Multi-Academy Trusts tend to use industry as a yardstick where CEOs earn “monopoly” money.

II       The Gender Gap

Schools Week analysed the salary of men and women CEOs of MATs.  The magazine reported on the salaries of CEOs in 24 MATs each of which had more than 20 academies.  In three of the 10 MATs which had the greatest number of academies, women – Dr Karen Roberts at the Kemnal Academies Trust (43 academies), Lucy Heller at ARK (36 academies) and Dr Karen Cook at Plymouth Cast (36 academies) – were the leaders. (Since the analysis, Cook was replaced by Raymonth Friel.)  Heller is one of the 10 best paid CEOs.

However, the average salary of men in 16 MATs where there are 20 academies or more was £174,765. Where women were the leaders, the average was £139,800.  Vivienne Porritt, the co-founder of WomenEd, said this was yet another example of a “rampant” gender pay gap in education that was becoming “really tiring.”

“Are trustees, who are also mostly white male (there is no black CEO of a MAT), appointing people who look and think as they do?”

For 2017-18, four CEOs including Martyn Oliver at Outwood Grange Tust and Gary Peile at Active Learning Trust did not take pay rises.  Two others, Wayne Norrie at Greenwood Academies Trust and Jon Coles at United Learning Trust, had not had a pay rise in three years.

III     Reflections

report published on 24 July from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB)  had  recommended a 3.5% uplift to all pay and allowance ranges.

The huge increases that MATs chiefs appear to be sticking in the throats of their staff.  However, teachers have been cowed by the financial crisis that hit us in 2008 and the unions circumspect in picking up the strike cudgel.  Their patience now has begun to wear thin.

The real loss in funding our education and the changes in the curriculum, tests and examinations have meant that schools and academies have been having to do more and more with less and less, to a point where they could have to do everything with nothing.   How can trusts, in such an environment, justify paying their chief such high salaries?  The nation is looking askance and trusts now must justify the measures they have taken on this front to the DfE.

[1] Education funding has gone down by 8% over the last four years and the salaries of staff severely constrained with an average of 1% (circa)rises (less than the cost of living) year-on-year.  Exceptionally, the government announced shortly before Parliament closed for the summer recess that teachers were to receive increases in their salaries as follows.

  • 5% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range (MPR)
  • 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the upper pay range (UPR)
  • 5% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the leadership pay range


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