Gender pay gaps in academy school chains among the worst in UK
Women working in academy school chains suffer some of the worst gender pay gaps in the UK, according to the Guardian’s analysis of data received through the government’s national survey of gender and pay.
The figures reveal a string of multi-academy trusts in England where women face median hourly pay deficits of more than 50%.
Of the 50 organisations with the largest gender pay gaps published to date, almost half – 24 – are multi-academy trusts, which are charities encouraged by the government to take over the running of thousands of state schools.
The gender pay figures raise fears that academy chains have been funnelling higher pay to a sliver of male-dominated senior posts, at rates of pay far above those in schools run by local authorities.
Among the worst offenders is Schoolsworks Academy Trust, a West Sussex chain of six schools where the median hourly pay gap in favour of men is 62% – meaning that a woman is paid 38 pence for every £1 earned by a man.
The Wakefield City Academies Trust, which collapsed late last year while managing 21 schools, was shown to have a gender pay gap of 52%, also according to median hourly pay.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said the gender pay data for academy trusts was “deeply alarming”.
“These figures are extremely disappointing. Pay in some multi-academy trusts is out of control, skewed to benefit a few at the top and now proven to reward men far higher than women. The government is entrenching inequality in the education system,” she said.
Labour said it had proposed legislation to make academies subject to the same accountability rules as local authorities, but had been rebuffed by the Conservatives.
The Guardian’s analysis of the 3,500 companies and public bodies that had reported their gender pay figures by the end of last week shows that schools are among the worst places for pay equality, despite the fact that teaching is the UK’s most popular career for degree-educated women.
The Department for Education did not respond to a request for comment.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the multi-academy trust figures highlighted a problem seen across the schools sector, including in those maintained by local authorities.
“Women teachers are less likely to be promoted and are more likely to be subject to other pay disadvantages, while women support staff are more likely to be in the lowest paid jobs,” he said.
Jo Swinson, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats and a former equalities minister, said: “Well-qualified, professional women are the driving force in our schools and colleges, yet we still see shocking levels of gender inequality, with the senior levels of some education trusts overwhelmingly dominated by men.”
About 70% of the more than 200 multi-academy trusts that reported their data by the end of last week had a median hourly pay gap worse than the 18.4% recorded by the Office for National Statistics as the UK average.
The Schoolsworks trust said it was “confident that the gender pay gap reported is not an equal pay issue, our pay policy which we follow ensures decisions are gender neutral and that decisions about staff pay are open, transparent and fair”.
Women made up more than 70% of employees in the trust’s top pay quartile, while men made up just one in 20 of staff in the bottom 50% of earnings.
Not far behind was the Peninsula Learning Trust, which runs seven primaries and one secondary in Cornwall, with a median hourly pay gap of 60%.
Among the national chains, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) – one of the largest chains in England running 64 schools – had a gender pay gap of 35%, while Greenwood Academies Trust with 32 schools had a gap of 38%.
AET’s chief executive Julian Drinkall is one of the UK’s highest-paid academy chain heads on £225,000, while his predecessor at AET, Ian Comfort, earned £236,000.
Faith-based academy chains fared no better: the staff working at the 24 schools in the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership face a gender pay gap of almost 50%. Clive Spencer, the partnership’s chief executive, earns £154,000 a year.
But some multi-academy trusts show pay can be awarded equitably. The Equals Trust, a chain of eight primary schools in Nottingham, reported a 0.1% median pay advantage in favour of women.
Additional reporting by Giacomo Boscaini-Gilroy and Caelainn Barr