CAMPAIGNERS took their protest to Dudley Town Hall on Monday night calling on councillors to rethink plans to make changes to specialist early years education for youngsters with special needs.

Parents with placards and a megaphone took to the town hall steps to complain about Dudley Council’s plans to decentralise SEN provision provided by Leapfrog and Leapfrog Too at Netherton Park Nursery School and create five Early Years Inclusion Hubs at locations across the borough this autumn.

They highlighted their concerns in the News a few weeks ago but say there has been no resolution and no meaningful contact with the council regarding the plans which they’ve labelled a backward step.

Dudley News: Leapfrog campaigner Ashley WaltonLeapfrog campaigner Ashley Walton (Image: Ashley Walton)

Kingswinford dad Ashley Walton, whose four-year-old autistic son Cole has progressed greatly since attending Leapfrog, said emails to council officials have been ignored or have received just a stock response.

Parents have called for meaningful discussions around the future provision of education and for the Leapfrog facilities to remain open and become a centre of excellence but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Ashley said: “Leapfrog has been there for 28 years and it has an outstanding Ofsted report. There’s no clear pathway of what these hubs are going to be like and who is going to run them.”

He said parents decided to take to the town hall steps to raise awareness of their plight and speak to elected representatives but he said they were not allowed into the meeting itself as they had not pre-registered their attendance.

They managed to garner support from Netherton councillor Qadar Zada, leader of Dudley Labour Group, who chatted to them outside and said the decision to make changes to the provision was done “behind closed doors” and he added: “What makes this ridiculous is we do not know what’s going to replace it.”

Dudley News: Cllr Qadar Zada talks to Leapfrog campaigners outside Dudley Town HallCllr Qadar Zada talks to Leapfrog campaigners outside Dudley Town Hall (Image: Ashley Walton)

The council told the News last month that 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.

Local authority bosses said appropriate settings for the Early Years hubs would be selected over the coming months “through a robust and detailed tender process” and that bids from all providers would be welcomed.

They added that the plans would reduce the need for children to travel to an early years setting outside of their community and would help to keep “as many children as possible in mainstream education as they prepare for adulthood”.

The campaigners will be talking further about their plight on Black Country Radio on Saturday April 22 at 11am.