PARENTS of children with special needs in the Dudley borough have slammed proposals to make changes to specialist early years education which they say has brought their little ones on leaps and bounds.

Numerous parents have complained about Dudley Council’s plans to decentralise SEN provision provided at Netherton Park Nursery School and create five Early Years Inclusion Hubs at locations across the borough this autumn.

They say Leapfrog and Leapfrog Too facilities at the nursery have wonderfully helped their children with complex special needs to develop - and they are urging the council to keep the service in its current location with its current staff.

Mum Jennifer Avery, of Halesowen, said her son Harry Robinson, aged three, who has a number of developmental issues, has benefited hugely from attending Leapfrog Too and she added: “They have managed to get him to do things that we never thought possible.

“The difference we have seen in him in such a short space of time is nothing short of a miracle and this is all down to the amazing knowledge and expertise of the incredible staff that understand and have the experience of working with neurodiverse children.

“Every single parent is absolutely gutted.”

Fellow Halesowen mum Rachel Palmer, whose five-year-old autistic son James now attends mainstream school after support from Leapfrog, said: “I cannot explain in words how much they improved his future outlook. He is only in mainstream school because of their input.”

Kingswinford dad Ashley Walton told how his four-year-old son Cole, who has autistic traits, has gained an interest in books and become more responsive since going to Leapfrog.

He said: “Leapfrog accepts my child; they don’t see him as a naughty boy making noise and crying, but as a boy that has a condition he can’t help. They have the greatest empathy and he’s become more social.”

Council chiefs say the plan to create five localised hubs is part of its approved SEND strategy and improvement programme, which they say has been widely consulted on with parents, teachers and carers.

Sal Thirlway, service director of education, SEND and family solutions at Dudley Council, said: “In line with Dudley’s vision for children, we are working towards a locality-based approach where children with identified needs can access support in their local community school setting.

“The most appropriate setting for the Early Years hubs will be selected over the coming months, through a robust and detailed tender process, and we welcome bids from all providers.

“By reducing the need for children to travel to an Early Years setting outside of their community, we not only reduce stress for parents, but we also give the children a chance to integrate in their local area.

“This also further strengthens our work to keep as many children as possible in mainstream education as they prepare for adulthood, which we know benefits them and their community in the long run.”

Parents say they are not opposed to the creation of new hubs across the borough but what they cannot accept is that as part of changes the Leapfrog service at Netherton Park Nursery could close if it is not accepted as the hub for Dudley.

Hannah Hind from Stourbridge, whose five-year-old son Ronnie has autism, said: “This is a facility that is already doing the job that the specialist early years service is trying to replicate at its proposed new hubs. It seems nonsensical and a waste of time and resources to go searching for another option.”

She added: “It’s such an excellent service set up to care and educate children with complex communication needs.

“Countless parents, myself included having benefited from its expertise in helping our vulnerable children during the crucial years of early development and getting them school ready.

“The current teachers have over 20 years specialist experience of the profession and an excellent reputation and track record. They’ve just received an outstanding Ofsted.”