Norfolk academies paid out more than £500,000 in staff severance payments

Wymondham High School

Wymondham High School - Credit: Archant © 2007

Norfolk academies paid out more than £500,000 in severance pay to staff members last year, an analysis of financial accounts has revealed.

The highest amount paid to a single individual was £41,390, given to a member of staff within the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which is based at Springwood High School and at the time also sponsored St Clement's High and Snettisham Primary schools.

The payoffs are given to staff who leave the school or academy trust, and agree not to take any dispute to an employment tribunal.

They usually also include a gagging clause which prevents them from speaking out publicly against their former employer, and have been criticised for preventing whistle-blowers from raising concerns.

Thetford Academy paid out the most in total in the year: £96,000.

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The school filed separate accounts from the Inspiration Trust, which became its sponsor in September 2013, and Inspiration reported three payouts in 2013-14 - one of £35,000, one of £30,000, and one of £5,204.

When Thetford Academy's severance payments are added to those made by its sponsor, the Inspiration paid out a total of £166,204.

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A spokesman for the Inspiration Trust said: 'We don't comment on individual severance payments but our policy is to keep them to a minimum in order to focus resources on our educational activities.'

West Norfolk Academies Trust's severance payment bill came to £92,923, Wymondham High School paid out £88,524, including six payments ranging from £17,000 to £13,000.

The total £500,000 for Norfolk excludes two national academy chains that have a number of schools in the county.

Ormiston Academies Trust paid out £342,344 across the 27 schools it sponsored in 2013-14. Three of these payments were in the £25-30,000 band.

A spokesman said: 'We can confirm that in Norfolk and Suffolk where we have nine academies, severance has totalled £101,799. All payments are statutory amounts made within statutory guidance.'

Academy Transformation Trust paid out £466,000 – the highest individual payment being £34,342 - but said only £4,300 was for schools in Norfolk and north Suffolk.

Full list of severance payments made by academies and academy chains with schools in Norfolk

Severance payouts - the rules

According to the Academies Financial Guidebook 2014, severance payments are 'paid to employee outside of normal or contractual requirements when leaving employment in public service, whether they resign, are dismissed or reach an agreed termination if contract'.

Before making such a payment, academies must consider whether they are in the interests of the trust, and whether the trust would be likely to win a potential employment tribunal.

The handbook said the level of any settlements must be less than what any employment tribunal would be likely to award.

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