I can’t believe six impossible things before breakfast – John Freeman

Pay for academy heads

One of the arguments put forward for school autonomy was the ‘excessive’ salaries being given to chief education officers working in local authorities. A back-of-the-fag-packet calculation based on personal experience tells me that in 2005 the average salary for a chief education officer was about £100,000, and with 150 local authorities, the salary bill was around £15 million. Now, one in five academy leaders earns £200,000 or more and the total leadership bill has rocketed. Unlike Alice, I can’t believe six impossible things before breakfast, and I don’t believe that these salaries are anything other than excessive, driven by a combination of headteachers recommending their own salary levels to compliant boards without external input, lack of accountability and transparency, and an artificial market having been set up in the interests of the headteachers themselves – just like, dare I say it, Vice Chancellors.

I note that Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, an agency with a budget bigger than the GDP of several European countries, earned £140,000 in the year 2015-16.

In this respect, as many others, the privatisation of education has led to entirely predictable effects, with the many inflating their salaries and the few (greediest) taking even more from children through fraud and peculation. I’m aware of at least five major financial scandals in academies over the last year – and I’ve seen none in local authorities or maintained schools – which, it has to be said, have a powerful and long-standing internal audit function.

John Freeman CBE is a former Director of Education and Director of Children’s Services, founding Joint President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, John is now Chair of the ADCS Associates Network and also Chair of the National Consortium for Examination results, a Community Interest Company co-owned by all local authorities, and also a writer for Children and Young People Now.