'Impossible to justify' - Academy chains slammed for paying bosses up to £300k a year
PUBLISHED: 05:30 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:27 13 September 2019
The boss of an academy trust which relinquished control of two Suffolk schools amid government pressure took home a pay packet of nearly £300,000 last year, it has been revealed.
Earning nearly double the Prime Minister, who takes home £150,000 a year, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) chief executive Julian Drinkall is understood to have been paid between £290,000 and £295,000 in 2018.
His pay packet is £100,000 more than that listed for 2017, however, AET representatives say this is because he joined halfway through the year.
Mr Drinkall heads up the biggest academy chain in England, which ran Felixstowe Academy and Langer Primary Academy until late last year.
AET came under fire from parents, teachers and Suffolk MP Therese Coffey for its failure to meet government standards - and the trust subsequently cut ties with both schools in November 2018.
It joins five other academy chains with schools in Suffolk and north Essex on a government list of trusts paying salaries of over £150,000.
The highest paid individual at the REAch2 Academy Trust, which runs Camulos Academy in Colchester and Burrsville Infant Academy in Clacton among others, took home between £230,000-£240,000 in 2017-18.
And both the Academies Transformation Trust and Ormiston Academies Trust paid their highest-earning individual £180,000-£190,000.
The former runs schools such as Westbourne Academy in Ipswich and Mildenhall College Academy, while the latter is in charge of Ormiston Endeavour Academy and Ormiston Sudbury Academy.
'Impossible to justify'
Jack Abbott, Labour's education spokesman at Suffolk County Council, slammed the high pay packets.
He said: "After years of real-term budget cuts to school funding, it is impossible to justify this level of executive pay.
"People will, understandably, be asking how any school CEO can take home a salary nearly double the PM at a time when school finances are so tight.
"This is money that should be going to the front line, investing in our schools, staff and children.
However, he added: "I am certain that there are school leaders who are working hard and making a real difference to their schools."
And Jerry Glazier, of the National Education Union, said the organisation is "very concerned" about increasing numbers of chief executives earning higher salaries.
He added: "Excessive salaries deprive schools from having money urgently needed for smaller class sizes, teachers and school resources."
Conservative Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who previously raised concerns about AET's leadership at Felixstowe Academy, did not respond to our requests for comment.
Pay 'independently reviewed', say chains
Most of the academy trusts featured in the above list said pay for all senior staff - including chief executives - is overseen by independent trustees, with robust benchmarking put in place.
A spokeswoman for AET said total remuneration packages, including salaries, of staff takes into account the size of the role and scale of the task at hand.
"When the chief executive joined the organisation, AET was in desperate need of a radical overhaul," she added.
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"This work is now largely complete - the trust's primary schools have seen an impressive 21% point improvement in year 6 tests since 2016, and our secondaries are also making strong progress.
"During that time, an £8million deficit has also been reversed, ensuring the organisation is now financially stable.
"The chief executive has waived a pay rise since joining the organisation three years ago. And with 31,000 children and young people in the trust, on a per pupil basis, his pay is considerably lower than that of many smaller trusts, including those of executive heads of single schools where their salary exceeds £150,000."
In an updated statement issued on Friday morning, AET clarified Mr Drinkall had not been awarded an £100,000 pay rise in a year, adding: "There has been no increase in the CEO's salary at all since he took up the role.
"He started half way through the academic year, and therefore the figure reported reflects that, showing a lower number than the following year. "There has been no pay rise."
A spokeswoman for REAch2 Academy Trust said it has a policy that the highest paid individual should never be paid more than a maximum of 10 times a newly qualified teacher.
"With 60 primary academies across the country, REAch2 is one of the largest academy trusts in the country and has a very strong track record in improving schools and providing children with exceptional opportunities to learn," the spokeswoman added.
"Across the country, 14,000 children are now being educating in good schools because of our work.
"Half of our schools were in the very worst Ofsted category when they joined our family, whereas today, there are only three and we have clear plans for them to improve.
"Our remuneration committee takes all of this into account, together with detailed benchmarking data within the sector. They look at the talent pool available, and the scale of the role - which at REAch2 means working with 18,000 children."
'Costs per pupil remain low'
A spokeswoman for the Inspiration Trust, based in Norwich and run by Dame Rachel de Souza, said: "The trust's pay policy, including for the CEO, is independently overseen by the trustees, with robust competitive bench marking in place.
"Inspiration Trust is a growing and developing multi-academy trust yet our salary costs per pupil remain low.
"We are unapologetic about our high aspirations for our schools and many of our schools' outcomes compete with the best nationally."
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Ormiston Academies Trust said pay for its senior staff takes into account their performance as leaders of a national charity educating 29,000 pupils in a large number of schools, many of which are in deprived areas.
"Over three-quarters of our schools inspected since joining us are rated good or outstanding and we are working hard to continue to drive further improvement across all our schools," the spokesman said.
"Many of our schools are located in areas of real disadvantage - we are proud to support children in these areas and we are committed to raising standards of education ever higher for the children and young people we serve."
'We take transparency very seriously'
Representatives for the Academies Transformation Trust added: "We are incredibly proud of the work we do every day to transform the life chances of the 12,000 students in our 22 academies, while being committed to raising standards even higher.
"Overall, more than 80% of our schools that have been inspected are rated good or better by Ofsted, above the national average.
"The pay of our CEO is in line with other large academy trusts.
"And, as with all staff pay and remuneration, is set by the trust board after benchmarking and taking into account DfE guidance.
"We are an organisation which takes transparency very seriously and we publish pay of senior staff."
David Willis, chairman of the Paradigm Trust board, added: "The remuneration we set for our leadership team reflects their extremely high standards of practice, their passion and commitment to the goals of Paradigm Trust and the outstanding results they have achieved for our schools."