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School funding cuts don’t touch the salaries of academy chain CEOs

Over the summer 2017, two topics dominated the headlines in the education sector: school funding cuts and the funding crisis, as well as the large salaries and pay rise of directors of academies, chief executives of Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) and vice-chancellors of universities.

Lord Adonis, Schools Minister in Tony Blair’s government, sparked the controversy when, in July, he called CEOs of MATs “greedy”. He reiterated the insult to vice-chancellors in August, in a context of rising student fees.

In early July, Lord Adonis told Tes: “I can see no justification whatever for salaries in the £300,000-£400,000 range, and I think the government should intervene to curb them.”

A Tes investigation, published in April 2017, shed light on the extravagant pay that MAT chief executives receive. Among them, it reported that Sir Daniel Moynihan, of Harris Federation, earned £420,000-£425,000 in 2015/16; Sir Greg Martin, formerly at Durand Academy, earned close to £400,000; and Sir Craig Tunstall, of Gipsy Hill Federation, earned £330,394.

Will Hazel, the Tes reporter, revealed an atmosphere of “secrecy” behind the negotiation of top salaries. Chief executives tend to sit on remuneration committees – as do vice-chancellors.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT teaching union, told Tes: “As in many private companies, the determination of the pay of these chief executives is shrouded in secrecy and it shouldn’t be. It’s public money.”

However, what provoked the ire of the education community was not so much the high pay than the pay rise that MAT CEOs have been enjoying over the past few years.

Will Hazell wrote: “The increases – 18% in one case, and between 14.6 and 20% in another – took place against a backdrop of a national 2% cap on the pay rise for teachers in 2015-16, which fell to just 1% in 2016-17.”

In July, the government confirmed that teachers’ pay rise would remain capped at 1% in 2017/18, as school budgets are decreasing in real terms.

Despite the government’s announcement of an extra £1.3bn for state schools over two years, schools will suffer a 4.6% decline in funding in real terms between 2015 and 2020, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

While teachers’ retention and recruitment crisis is becoming ever more acute because of the lack of funds for CPD, teachers and pupils have adapted to work with fewer resources.

A supporter of BESA’s Resource Our Schools campaign said: “The situation is becoming critical. If I need specialist resources, I have to buy them myself. Money is tight, I find myself getting wound up over children using too much glue, or sharpening pencils too much!”

BESA’s latest report on school resources budgets identified the estimated loss in budget allocations to be £3,750 in primary schools and £17,030 in secondary schools between 2016/17 and 2017/18. ICT in secondary schools was hit the hardest, with a 7.5% decline in expenditure last year.

To reverse the trend, Lord Adonis recommended that the Department for Education introduce a £150,000 salary cap for academy high-earners (which is the Prime Minister’s wage). Money saved this way could, instead, be spent on “more textbooks and more and better teachers”, he said.

The call for more resources for pupils and teachers is at the heart of the Resource Our Schools campaign, since school improvement cannot happen if teachers and schools are not accessing the right resources. To ensure that every school has access to the resources they need to deliver the education that our children deserve, sign the Resource Our Schools statement here.