Following my previous article on ‘How School Bosses Spent your Millions’ which referred to one Kent Junior School headteacher who ‘earned’ over £100,000 a year, I have been asked a number of times if he is alone.
The answer both astonished and reassured me. I have looked at academy accounts for 2014-15 filed at Companies House, for as many Academies as are accessible. For some Multi-Academy Trusts, with large numbers of primary academies under their wing, it proves impossible to separate them out, but it is clear that there are few high payers in these. The large majority of primary academy headteachers appear to have an annual salary of under £60,000.
However, three of these headteachers were paid over £100,000 in that year, none for obvious reasons, as explained below. Another six received over £80,000. I also look at the more general picture below.
The three top paying schools (school links are to Companies House Account)
Looking at the most extreme examples of high pay below, one can only wonder what the relevant Academy Boards of Trustees are about, paying so highly over the norm for headteachers.
Highest paying school was Meopham Community Primary, a two form entry school of 434 pupils last year, which was given a Good OFSTED assessment in 2014, and where the headteacher had to resign in January 2015, having received over £110,000 that year to date. In his last full year of 2013-14 he took £155,000 - £160,000, just short of KCC’s Corporate Director of Education and Children’s Services, who is paid £166,353. He was also in charge of a Federation, disastrously, with Istead Rise, which never got out of Special Measures under his leadership and failed a Monitoring Inspection shortly before he resigned, and Chantry, which went into Special Measures and subsequently received a pre-termination warning of closure for its poor standards, again just before he resigned. All three schools are in Gravesham. He resigned on 6th January 2015, correspondence address in Sandwich – some way to commute, it being believed he jumped before he was pushed.
Second was The Academy of Woodlands in Gillingham, a two form entry school of 454 pupils last year, where the Principal was paid £110,000 - £115,000 in 2014/15 for this Single School Trust. He has now retired, after OFSTED reported the school as Good for the second consecutive time in February 2016. The school clearly does not suffer through this expenditure, as the current leadership appears somewhat top heavy with two Deputy Heads and four Assistant Headteachers.
Third is St Stephen’s Academy in Canterbury, a slightly misleading name as the Single School Trust runs just the Junior School and not the Infants. The school has an unusual intake figure of 100 (four smaller classes in each year suggests the school is well funded), and a total roll last year of 407. OFSTED in 2013 found the school Good, slipping from its previous Outstanding (pre-academy). The Executive Headteacher was paid between £100,000 and £110,000 in 2014-15, but was still apparently short of funds, as the Trust loaned him £600 to buy a computer. The term ‘Executive Headteacher’ may date back to when the headteacher also managed Pilgrim’s Way Primary, with the intention of taking it over as a Sponsored Academy, but this proposal collapsed shortly before Pilgrims Way failed its OFSTED in September 2013, and it is now recovering under The Village MAT, not one of the highest payers!
The General Picture
Whilst I am not able to unravel the full picture in the larger Academy Trusts, where individual schools are not identified, a look at the general pattern suggests few Academy Heads in these Trusts are paid over £60,000. The two largest Trusts operating primary schools in Kent, The Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust (also other Anglican Trusts) and the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership make clear that no headteacher in any of their schools earns more than £60,000 a year. I have found CEOs of significant Multi-Academy Trusts earning not much more than this and several headteachers on a salary of less than £50,000 per year.
Other high payers
But against this, I found another five leaders of unexceptional schools on salaries of £80,000 to £90,000 - Shatterlocks and Whitecliffs (although Outstanding in 2010) in the Dover Federation (also with one of the highest paid secondary heads so a good place to be if you like the money!), Brompton-Westbrook in Gillingham, Timu Trust (Bobbing Village and Iwade), and Delce Academy (Junior) in Rochester. Squeezed in between these and the £100 thousand plus schools is the CEO of Stour Academy Trust, working alongside an also highly paid Executive Head. There are eight further headteachers on £70,000 to £80,000, including in 2015, the disgraced headteacher of Whitehill Primary. It may be that a school like Temple Grove Academy in Tunbridge Wells, another of the last group, whose accounts show that it benefits from a top up to its funding, of around £55,000 in 2015 from the Temple Grove Schools Trust, feels this is the best use of the extra capital presumably intended for the benefit of pupils. However, with the school reducing from three Deputy Heads and two Assistants to one and one in the past year, it suggests it is feeling the cold along with all other primary schools.
In spite of popular rumour, it is only a minority of primary academy leaders that appear to have utterly disproportionate salaries. For those that do, one has to ask how Trustees allowed themselves to be bamboozled in some cases into misusing limited school funds in this way. As schools are squeezed tighter and tighter with government funding cuts, many of the above will come to regret their generosity.