UNIONS representing staff at the largest academy trust in the UK have launched a vote of no confidence in the trust’s leadership.

Academies Enterprise Trust, which operates Clacton Coastal Academy, Tendring Technology College and Hamford Primary Academy, in Walton, has been accused of putting “the wellbeing of children and workers at serious risk.”

The trust, which also runs Maltings Academy and New Rickstones Academy, in Witham, is embroiled in a dispute with education unions.

The unions claim the trust is planning to outsource services, hold down teacher pay progression and make further cuts to frontline school support staff.

Leaders at Unison, GMB, the National Education Union and the Association of School and College Leaders say the trust has failed to listen to staff concerns.

Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education, said: “AET is demonstrating a total lack of respect for staff.

“Its actions are a fundamental breach of trust.

“Unison now has no choice but to move to a vote of no confidence and consider options for further action.”

The vote comes after MPs challenged the Government to publish details of a £16m turnaround plan agreed between the trust and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Ministers have yet to elaborate on how the £4.5 million already allocated to the trust has been spent.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint secretary of the National Education Union, added: “Teachers’ pay progression is one of the lowest in the sector and staff workload is a severe problem.

“Meanwhile AET chief executive Julian Drinkall is one of the highest paid multi academy trust chief executives.

“Things can’t go on as they are.”

The vote began on Wednesday, with schools invited to have their say throughout the coming weeks.

A spokesman for the trust said the changes had put AET on a “solid and sustainable footing”.

He added: “Everything we do is focused on ensuring our schools are providing the best possible education and it is simply untrue to say the changes we are making are putting children or staff at risk.”