There are more questions than answers

First off, it’s important that this isn’t seen as an attack on anyone. It’s not meant to be. Whilst you have to take this on trust you should understand that the figures I present below actually came out different to my original expectations. So what was originally produced in order to show “meh”, actually turns out to show “hmm”.

A little while ago I wrote this piece in defence of a particularly high MAT CEO salary. Since then there has been a lot more commentary on this issue, in particular from Andrew Adonis, starting with university VC pay but then moving on the MAT CEOs.

I had a problem with this in regard to MATs. The CEO is only one person. Perhaps this was a distortion. Yes, £400k pa is morally unpalatable, but lets not get it out of proportion when looking at an organisation with an income of nearly £130 million.

So that’s where I left it.

Until I saw this image on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 12.34.23And I thought “Oh, that’s a lot of people.”. But then I thought, ok, it’s a big organisation, with lots of schools, maybe it just looks a lot because its all in one place. Which was where I was prepared to leave it. But then I realised that this would give me the excuse I need to spend an hour or so playing with Excel.

So I went onto the Companies House website (and why the hell is that still in Beta?), downloaded some accounts and created the following table (apologies for the formatting):

Harris Mixed Mixed Mainly Pri Mainly Sec All Primary Single Sec
Academies 37 23 76 21 19 12 1
Income/Academy 4,149k 4,182k 3,246k 2,820k 4,674k 930k 6,600k
Total Staff Costs 127,315k 72,652k 188,768k 48,386k 64,108k 9,185k 5,185k
HPE Costs 13,170k 4,980k 13,380k 2,835k 3,610k 320k 170k
Cost/Employee 44k 33k 29k 30k 28k 15k 34k
Cost/HPE 84k 80k 76k 86k 82k 80k 85k
Staff Cost/Total 83% 76% 77% 82% 72% 82% 79%
HPE Cost/Total 9% 5% 5% 5% 4% 3% 3%
Staff/Academy 78 94 85 77 122 52 153
HPE/Academy 4.2 2.7 2.3 1.6 2.3 0.3 2.0

Which is when I thought “Hmm”.

There are four items of note here.

Firstly a 9% cost of higher paid staff compared to a maximum of 5% elsewhere is a significant difference. When added to the numbers of staff per academy it does indicate that completely a different model is in play. More higher paid staff per academy suggests a greater focus on management.

The second issue is the huge difference when compared to the single academy. Three times as much spent on higher paid staff. This, I think, is an issue of note. One of the purposes of a MAT is to benefit from cost efficiencies. Cost efficiencies are usually gained by reducing the numbers of highly paid staff through centralisation of services. This doesn’t appear to be happening here. Nor does it seem to be the case in any other MATs apart from the all primary model.

The third item is the high percentage of income devoted to staff costs. This indicates a “no frills” approach. This also shows up in the general cost per employee. These are generally more highly paid in Harris (even when you take out the HPE).

The final issue that comes through is the number of employees. I’m surmising that there are more part-time staff in the non-Harris academies (based on average staff cost and staff number per academy). Does this play into the success or otherwise of the academy.

There is nothing here that screams “this is wrong”, but it does suggest that there are some questions which could be helpfully answered. If only to help inform the development of other MATs.