The director of a charitable trust running three Birmingham academies has paid back a £1,436 hotel bill after being criticised for claiming it on the company’s expenses.
Sir Bruce Liddington, director general of E-Act, originally claimed the cash on hotel suites for two nights for himself and a colleague at The Hyatt in Birmingham but paid the bill privately after criticism from teaching unions.
The trust runs the North Birmingham Academy, Shenley and Heartlands Academies.
Doug Morgan, president of Birmingham National Union of Teachers, has questioned whether the trust should be running academies and criticised it for paying Sir Bruce a £265,000-plus salary.
He said: “I don’t think E-Act is a suitable provider for education. E-act has no experience in the education of children. The fact that the director general can be on ludicrous amounts of money doesn’t show they have the best interests of the children at heart.
“He is getting £265,000 that should be put into education. It sends absolutely the wrong message. It sends the message that schools are open for business and it’s not what education is about.
“Academies are the privatisation of schools. The academies are able to secure funding which still comes from the local education authority but they are less accountable. They don’t have to produce results in the same way.”
Sir Bruce and another director travelled to Birmingham in November for a conference and stayed at the Hyatt Regency hotel’s club deluxe king suites, costing £339 per night which was put on company expenses. E-Act said Sir Bruce had now paid this bill privately.
Another senior director claimed £250 to take a taxi from Lincolnshire to his home in Wales.
The disclosures come as the Government urges more schools to look at becoming academies.
Academy status gives individual schools almost complete freedom over budgets, the curriculum, hiring staff, term times and the length of school day. They are also free to set their own teachers’ pay, including offering six figure salaries to top heads.
Birmingham City Council said there were currently four academies in the city including St Alban’s which is run by Ark and a further four are planned – King Edward VI Sheldon Heath, Harborne Academy, due to open in September 2010, Birmingham Ormiston and Aston University Engineering Academy.
E-Act said it welcomes the extension of the academies programme as it is “the best way to drive up standards in state schools”.
Hywel Jarman, communications director of E-Act, said: “We have had a lot of support from parents and communities particularly around the transformation that has taken place at our three academies.
“As a sponsor we are focused on improving education and improving life chances and opportunities for our students. We look forward to our first real test which is GCSE results in the summer.
“We’re not involved in any current discussions about new academies in Birmingham with the local authority. But with the change of Government and the extension of the academies programme, we anticipate that there will be opportunities in and around Birmingham in the future.”
Regarding Sir Bruce’s salary, he said: “The director general’s salary is a matter of record. He was one of the leading architects of the academies programme, a former schools commissioner for England, and he is probably the best-qualified person to lead a national academy sponsor. His salary reflects this.”