Michael Gove is to cap excessive pay

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Michael Gove has written to the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) saying that he wanted no headteacher to earn more than the prime minister following their recommendations last year.

It follows the revelation that primary headmaster,  Mark Elms, is paid more than £275,000 in a year . The school he leads, Tidemill Primary in Deptford, is rated outstanding by Ofsted.

Despite his excellent work, Mr Elms's huge pay award has been described as 'extraordinary' and 'exorbitant'. Yet he is set to earn even more money after being recruited to run a second school -  Aerodrome School  primary school in Croydon in September.

The position at Aerodrome School - which will open following the merger of two failing schools - was advertised earlier this year with a salary of between £58,000 and £67,000. But a suitable candidate could not be found, so Mr Elms was approached by the council.

A spokesman for the council said: 'Mark Elms has an outstanding reputation and a proven track record in developing a high performing primary school and in his role as adviser under the London Challenge programme.

'We are therefore delighted that Aerodrome's temporary governing body has agreed a role for Mark Elms as executive headteacher of Aerodrome Primary School, alongside his existing role at Tidemill.'

For this work, at Tidemill Primary school, Mr Elms receives a basic salary of £82,417, which is well within the maximum head teacher pay rate of £109,000 for large inner London state schools. The bulk of the £200,000 pay package he received last year was for the work he did on the London Challenge and City Challenge project over two years.

The GMB union has described his salary as "outrageous" because he was paid more than the prime minister last year.

Chris Keates, Nasuwt general secretary, said it had been raising concerns for years about the lack of regulation and scrutiny of the pay of headteachers.

She said: "Whilst the majority have reasonable salaries and do not attempt to exploit the system, too many have secured inflated pay increases and benefits rubber stamped by governing bodies, double payments for doing other work outside their schools and 'bonuses' or 'overtime' which are not permitted under the national pay framework."

It is thought that about 100 head teachers in England earn more than £150,000, with a handful earning as much as £180,000.

However, with pay being set by school governing bodies, there are no records kept on how many heads earn above the top of their pay scale.

In a letter to Anne Wright, chairman of the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), Mr Gove said teachers pay should increase this year by 2.3% in line with previous recommendations.

But he added that he wanted to add an "upper limit to leadership group remuneration" capping discretionary pay at the level of the prime minister's basic salary.