Greater scrutiny over MAT CEO pay

Adam Wainwright
And 4 other things we learned from Damian Hinds...

Damian Hinds spoke at the National Governance Association conference, covering a range of topics the Department for Education will be tackling over the coming months; we look at the major talking points below.

 

A closer look at leaders’ pay

Hinds made it clear that he wants trusts to “bear down” on excessive salaries for headteachers and chief executives. He has said pay rises for non-teaching management should not exceed those given to teachers.

Beyond giving his backing to boards to crack down on excessive salaries, there was little mention of any department-set cap or restriction. Academy accounts returns will have to detail salaries of over £100,000, and the department will “publically challenge” any salaries they deem too high. Where leaders are paid more than this, he also wants to see the percentage of teaching time those individuals undertake. However, it seems this will be the extent of any government intervention. I’d be surprised if they went further and introduced a cap on CEO pay.

Formerly Employment Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, Hinds was promoted to Secretary of State for Education on 8 January 2018.

 

Related party transactions are also under the microscope

A more detailed account was given of the process for scrutinising related-party transactions. For those unfamiliar, this is where an academy trust pays for goods or services from a company linked to a member or trustee (whether directly or through a family member).

Hinds is not ruling out related-party transactions entirely, but from next April trusts will need to seek ESFA approval for any related-party transactions over £20,000. Those under £20,000 will still be declared.

 

A new way of assessing trust performance

Hinds spoke of a need for a new system to assess which trusts should take on new schools, or where trusts are failing the schools they take on. The current accountability system ranges from MAT performance tables, Ofsted inspections and financial data. Regional school commissioners also have criteria for deciding whether trusts can expand, but Hinds conceded that this approach has its limits.

The speech included a commitment that this new system will not add to teachers’ or governors’ workload. He wants to gather the views of MAT and school leaders before any details of the new system would be published, which means that’s about the extent of the detail on this for now.

This should not be confused with another similar change to the accountability system announced earlier this year, where the DfE gave details on principles for a ‘clear and simple’ new accountability system. Hinds addressed this separately in the speech; this point seems to point to plans being afoot to uncomplicate the relationship between Ofsted, the ESFA and regional school commissioners when judging MATs.

 

More support for governors…

Unsurprisingly, governance came up in this speech at a conference on governance. Fans of large numbers will be pleased to hear that funding for governor and trustee training will be doubled, reaching 6 million pounds. He also promised improved guidance will be developed for governors, trustees and clerks. There’s also a heightened sense of board accountability in his speech; he makes it clear he will take action where an academy trust is providing weak governance and implicitly suggests that governance and financial management are not yet subjected to the same scrutiny as other aspects of trust leadership and development.

 

…and a call for more of them

As well as promising the extra cash, Hinds spent a good portion of the speech praising the work of governors and trustees and thanking them for their work.

But he also wants to see a greater range of people going into governance. There was a call for people from different backgrounds and professions, as well as more young people and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

To support more people going into governance, Hinds spoke of appealing to employers to encourage their staff to take up the governor reins. He’s written to members of the Institute of Directors to encourage staff to become governors and give them “the time to do so”.

Flexible working arrangements are clearly a good way to tackle the hours governance takes. It’s nice to see Hinds acknowledge the time and effort it takes and I welcome the move for him to work with employers to facilitate this.

The speech struck a positive tone overall, but we’ll have to wait and see if the proposals have a tangible impact on the sector. (I just wish he’d been brave enough to say that England can win the world cup).

 

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