Revealed: The school academy chains paying bosses over £150k a year

Trainee teacher have had to adapt to all pupils not being in school.

Some academy trust bosses are paid than £150,000 a year Inset: Graham White of Suffolk NEU - Credit: Getty Images/GRAHAM WHITE

Top managers at academy chains took home salaries of up to £300,000 last year, with some receiving pay rises despite national pledges to slash wage bills. 

Earning nearly double the Prime Minister's £150,000-a-year salary, departing Academies Enterprise Trust chief executive Julian Drinkall - in charge of schools such as Clacton Coastal Academy and Tendring Technology College - took home between £285,000 and £290,000 in 2019/20. 

Mr Drinkall, who heads up the largest academy chain in England with 58 schools, did have his pay packet reduced by £10,000 from £295,000-£300,000 the previous year, and trust chiefs said he has declined pay increases since he joined in 2016.

It comes amid a crackdown by the Department for Education which has been sending warning letters to trusts with bosses earning more than £150,000.  

Trust bosses said the CEO’s pay is made up of salary and performance bonus, and, with more than 33,000 pupils, on a per-pupil basis, his remuneration is among the lowest of academy trust leaders in the country. They also said the chain led the way during Covid-19, providing every pupil with a laptop. 

Yet Graham White, of the National Education Union’s Suffolk branch, labelled the sums "excessive". 

“I would argue that these are excessive salaries for the roles they have to carry out - you don’t need to charge that much,” he said. 

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“Clearly, the head of an academy trust has an important role, but I would argue that the person in charge of children and young people in Suffolk, Norfolk, or Essex, has an even bigger job and they are paid nowhere near £200,000. 

Graham White is from the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union

Graham White is from the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union - Credit: Graham White

“If you take Suffolk, for example, it used to have 300-odd local authority schools, and the head of that might have been paid £80,000-£90,000 a year, for running 300 schools.” 

Others taking home pay packets over £150,000 included Dame Rachel de Souza of East Point Academy and Thetford Academy chain the Inspiration Trust - who has just secured a top Government job as children's commissioner. 

The CEO took home up to £10,000 more in 2019/20, with a pay package of £160,000-£170,000 - which bosses said takes into consideration overall performance and experience. 

Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza

Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza. - Credit: Tom Barnes

A spokesman added remuneration for CEOs are benchmarked against their competitors, and “reflects responsibilities and expectations placed on the individual”. 

Basic pay for a qualified teacher in England is £25,714 a year, according to Prospects - meaning all of the executives on our list earn approximately five-and-a-half times the salaries of the average teacher. 

REach2 Academy Trust, which runs Sprites Primary in Ipswich and Martlesham Primary Academy, paid its highest earner between £220,000 and £230,000 in 2019/20, putting a higher salary listed in 2018/19 down to accounting errors. 

“The CEO's salary has remained the same for the last four years, and reflects the fact that REAch2 is the largest primary-only academy trust in the country,” a spokesman said. 

Ormiston Academy Trust, which paid a top salary of £200,000-£210,000 in 2019/20, also gave its highest earner up to a £10,000 pay rise. The chain, which runs schools such as Ormiston Endeavour Academy and Ormiston Sudbury Academy, said pay for senior staff is set following a robust review and market benchmarking process. 

It takes into account excellence and performance as leaders of one of the largest trusts in the country, a spokesman added, with the chain responsible for educating more than 30,000 youngsters. 

“We are proud of the high standards of education we deliver in all our academies – many located in areas of real disadvantage – and this leadership has been to the fore throughout Covid-19, which has presented the most challenging circumstances to provide education and care for children in almost 80 years," they added.

Ipswich Academy ranked 1st in the list of Suffolk secondary schools with the most permanent exclusio

Ipswich Academy ranked 1st in the list of Suffolk secondary schools with the most permanent exclusions in 2016/17 Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Salaries for top earners at Paradigm Trust, which runs Ipswich Academy, and Unity Schools Partnership, which runs several West Suffolk academies, remained the same – with the CEO on £180,000-£190,000 at Paradigm and £150,000-£160,000 at Unity. 

A Paradigm Trust spokesman said remuneration for leaders reflects “extremely high standards of practice, passion and commitment”, with salaries in line with those of other trusts.