Academy trusts increasingly facing scrutiny over executive pay levels

In recent weeks, Eileen Milner, the Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), has penned damning letters to a number of academy trusts asking them to ‘justify’ executive pay.

The request applies to academies which pay at least one individual salary of £150,000 or more, or two or more salaries of between £100,000 and £150,000.

The letter follows a study which found that many of the 92 academy trusts with staff on £100,000 to £150,000 were classed as “small”.

Industry publication Schools Week, which published the figures after issuing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, found that 56 of the 92 academy trusts had fewer than 10 schools, and 11 had just one each.

In her correspondence, Ms Milner has clarified that academy trusts should have a “clear process” and “rationale” for the salaries set, including for all non-teaching staff posts.

“Whilst I recognise the excellent work carried out by many trusts to deliver high-quality education to children, trusts have a responsibility to ensure value for money and that salary and other remuneration payments are transparent, proportionate, reasonable and justifiable.

“The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has a responsibility to ensure that best practice is exemplified in the system to ensure this accountability,” the letter says.

Trustees have been asked to outline the role and responsibilities of the executive in question, as well as the level of challenge he or she has faced, for example, academically, financially or geographically.

In addition, the ESFA expects remuneration committees to show that it has scrutinised and approved all other benefits such as eligibility to participate in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, travel, accommodation, bonuses, notice periods and holiday entitlement.

Academies included in the latest round of assessment are required to respond by 20 July 2018.

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