DEVON'S education chief has expressed her amazement at the £152,211 salary of a city headteacher – almost £10,000 more than the Prime Minister.
Steve Maddern, executive head at West Exe Technology College, earns almost triple the national average salary for a headteacher.
Portfolio holder for schools and learning Councillor Christine Channon said she was "stunned" at the difference in the levels of pay for the heads of Exeter's secondary schools.
Mr Maddern is earning around £60,000 more than the next highest paid headteacher in Exeter, Mark Perry at St Peter's Church of England Aided School – the highest performing state secondary school. And Mr Maddern, who has held the post since 1997, earns almost double that of two fellow city secondary school heads.
It is understood that nationally only around 100 headteachers earn more than £150,000 a year.
According to salary guidelines, the top pay scale for teachers is just under £106,000 outside London, but governors can offer much more in exceptional cases.
The National Association of Head Teachers said a headteacher's average salary is £55,000 – and headteachers who earn £100,000 or above account for less than one per cent of all school leaders.
All of Exeter's five secondary schools were rated good with some outstanding features by Ofsted at their last inspections.
Figures obtained by the Echo reveal Mr Perry earns £95,000 and has held the post since 1980. There are 1,225 pupils at St Peter's School.
Mandi Street, headteacher of Isca College of Media Arts, which has around 800 pupils, also earns £90,000.
Moira Marder, headteacher at St James' School, which has around 670 pupils, and Mark Pinchin, headteacher of St Luke's Science and Sports College, which has around 980 pupils, both earn £70,000.
Last year West Exe – the biggest school in the city with around 1,300 pupils – celebrated record results at GCSE with 50 per cent of students achieving A – C grades.
It was 71 per cent at St Peter's, 47 per cent at St James, 45 per cent at Isca College of Media Arts and 48 per cent at St Luke's Science and Sports College.
A spokesman for Devon County Council said Mr Maddern had helped with the running of St James when it was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted in 2006.
Paul Smith, who resigned last month as chair of governors at West Exe after 13 years in the post, said: "The main reason the amount was agreed was because Mr Maddern was made an executive headteacher which meant he had responsibilities outside of school, for example he helped run St James' School and Honiton Community College.
"The school also has a teacher training facility based at the school for which he is managing director.
"Last year the school achieved its best ever results, a lot of that is due to the leadership team under Mr Maddern. It's very important in a large school to have a team that works well."
Cllr Channon said the county council has "no control" over the setting of headteachers' salaries, which are set by each school's board of governors.
She said: "I am stunned at the disparity between the levels of pay considering the similar size of the schools.
"It would be interesting to know how the governors who have awarded the salaries can justify the added value.
"The budget for a school will be based on pupil numbers, so some governors have decided that the headteacher's salary is more of a priority than the curriculum. I hope that those on higher pay bring added value.
"It is not uncommon that headteachers' salaries increase further when a school becomes and academy – perhaps they can argue they have more responsibility."
A spokesperson for the National Association of Head Teachers, added: "The average head teacher's salary is around £55,000.
"For this, they must be business managers, human resources experts, mentors for their less-experienced staff, politicians, financial managers, skilled administrators, social workers, health and safety inspectors, inspirational leaders and, apparently, be additionally responsible for plugging all the gaps in society that it can't or won't fill.
"This is in addition to the role for which they were actually trained – educating our children.
"A 55-hour working week is the norm and it is usually more. Headteachers who earn £100,000 or above account for less than one per cent of all school leaders.
"Those who do receive high sums do so to reflect additional duties such as responsibilities for more than one school. Many also have specialist skills which benefit the education community at large. "
Mr Maddern was unavailable for comment.