Ourcity.London can reveal that one primary school headteacher, Sir Craig Tunstall, is earning almost £375,000 according to Lambeth Council’s accounts.
Sir Craig is executive head of the Gipsy Hill Federation, a group of local authority primary schools.
The extraordinary figures have been uncovered as part of audit of Lambeth Council’s accounts being carried out by “The People’s Audit” campaign, in which ourcity.london took part.
High pay Lambeth
Lambeth council is certainly no stranger to high pay. When they hired Sue Foster, their strategic director of planning, housing and regeneration in 2010 she was the highest paid council officer in the country that was not a Chief Executive. Her current pay package is around £170,000.
Today, the top four director at Lambeth Council are all on more than £150,000 with a generous pension contribution added on top.
However, Lambeth Council’s accounts reveal that the borough has really excelled itself when it has come to the pay of one head teacher.
Sir Craig Tunstall is executive head of the Gipsy Hill Federation, a group of 9 local authority primary schools. Because the schools are overseen by the council and not an academy trust his pay is disclosed in the Lambeth accounts, which show that he is on a total pay package of £374,147. That breaks down as £330,394 in salary with a hefty £43,753 pension contribution.
Sir Craig’s huge package means that the top 6 employees at Lambeth council share a total in pay and benefits of £1.3m, at a time when the council has been shedding lower paid jobs due to budget cuts.
Lambeth council told me that Sir Craig was the executive head of 9 schools and so was not a headteacher in the traditional sense, and that the schools not the council set his pay.
The Gipsy Hill Federation did not respond to a request for comment.
Highest paid primary school head teacher in the UK?
Previously the highest paid primary school headteacher in the country was thought to be the head of the Durand Academy, also in Lambeth, although independent of the council. Sir Greg Martin stepped down from that school last year on a basic salary of £200,000. This was supplemented by an additional £160,000 for running a leisure centre and property development on the school site.
Durand Academy has since had its funding terminated by the Department of Education over concerns about financial impropriety under Sir Greg.
The highest paid secondary school head is the chief executive of the Harris Federation of 37 schools. Sir Daniel Moynihan is on a minimum salary of £395,000.
The average starting salary for a primary school teacher in the UK is £19,600 rising to £28,700 after ten years experience according to the OECD.
The Secretary of State for Education is on a salary of around £140,000.
Teachers have been subject to a 1% cap on pay increases in 2016.
Rewarding the right people?
The huge salary that taxpayers pay to Sir Craig is particularly interesting given the recent research published in the Harvard Business Review about the performance of head teachers in UK academies.
The research found that the worst teachers are often rewarded the most in the UK schools system. The research looked at 160 academies and categorised the head teachers into several types, surgeon, philosopher, accountant, soldier and architect.
Surgeons were heads who took radical and decisive action to improve a school. They also excluded a huge amount of children. On average surgeons were found to exclude 25% of final year school children.
This action was found to have an immediate effect on school performance, but the improvements were also unsustainable, and quickly melted away after the head had moved on. The authors of the report said:
“we honor and reward Surgeons for dramatically increasing examination results during their tenure, even though these improvements cannot be sustained. In our study, 38% of the 68 Surgeons we identified had been knighted by the Queen, 24% had received a CBE, MBE or OBE and they are typically paid 50% more than the other leaders. However, what we fail to see are the long-term problems created by simply excluding poor performing students and focusing resources on improving immediate examination results. In some cases it took schools four years to recover from these changes, with up to $2 million paid to consultants to help clear up the mess.”
Surgeon head teachers were also the highest paid and most likely to receive a knighthood.
Sir Craig appears to fall into the category of surgeon. In 2011 he was invited to take over Oval Primary school in Croydon, but was sacked after 48 hours in charge due to uproar from parents. Sir Craig and his management team had excluded 7 students within their very short time in charge. And what terrible crimes had these children committed? The offences included not wearing the right coat in the playground and one child’s refusal to finish their lunch. One child with special needs was excluded for not lining up quickly enough.