Two trusts with a total of seven academies in Wellingborough have been ordered to justify salaries of more than £100,000.
The schools are among those run by 28 academy trusts nationwide that have received a letter from academies minister Lord Theodore Agnew as part of the Government’s commitment to curb ‘excessive’ salaries based on the size, standards, and financial health of trusts.
Olympic Academy, Ruskin Academy and Warwick Academy – part of the Lion Academy Trust – and Ecton Village Primary Academy, Oakway Academy, Sir Christopher Hatton Academy and Victoria Primary Academy – part of the Hatton Academies Trust - are the schools in question.
The trusts that run them have been asked to provide more details on the pay of executives who earn more than £150,000 - and those earning £100,000 if two or more people in a school earn a six-figure salary.
Lord Agnew said: "Academies are raising standards in schools across the country – replacing underperforming council-run schools in some of the most disadvantaged areas and helping young people to raise their aspirations through a better standard of education.
"The best academies place freedom in the hands of school leaders but with that autonomy comes greater accountability and transparency, which is exactly why I am insistent that the salaries of their executives are justifiable.
"And just because we are advocates of the academies programme, doesn’t mean we won’t call a trust out where we believe they are not acting responsibly.
"The overwhelming majority of academies are behaving responsibly and by publicly challenging the minority of trusts that are not complying with this request, we will ensure that every pound of public money is spent as effectively as possible to continue improving the standard of education in our schools."
Lord Agnew’s request forms part of the Government’s requirement for academy trusts to publish high salaries in their accounts, providing a far higher level of public scrutiny than local authority schools, who are not required to prepare individual statutory accounts.
In the letter, which has been sent to fewer than 1 per cent of academy trusts nationwide, Lord Agnew calls on the chairs to work with the Government on the 'divisive issue' of high pay, asking them to justify salaries and reassure ministers that that they are not “diverting financial resources that could be more effectively deployed on the front line of education”.
This is the latest step taken by the Department for Education to bear down on academy trusts that pay excessive salaries and ensure they are more accountable for the money they spend, bringing them in line with the overwhelming majority of academy trusts – fewer than four per cent of trusts pay two or more salaries between £100k-£150k.
It follows the news that more than 50 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools in England are now studying in an academy or free school, and new research which shows that, in the majority of cases, standards have risen more quickly in sponsored academies than similar council-run schools.
The letter follows a successful drive to ensure pay is justifiable and proportionate in England’s schools.
To date, Eileen Milner, CEO of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has written to the chair of trustees at 213 academy trusts, 45 of which have reduced salaries.
Lion Academy Trust and Hatton Academies Trust have been contacted for comment.