DUDLEY Council is pushing through plans to shake-up education provision for children with special needs, despite fierce opposition from parents.

The council announced today (Monday August 7) that its proposal to create five early years inclusion hubs across the borough will go ahead.

Parents of little ones with complex learning needs had been campaigning for the last few months for services to stay at Netherton Park Nursery which has been home to much-praised Leapfrog and Leapfrog 2 facilities.

Mums and dads protested on the steps of the council house and handed over a petition to try to get education chiefs to change their minds about the plan – as they were worried five separate new hubs may not live up to the excellent reputation that the Leapfrog facilities have earned.

The council, however, has confirmed the plan to decentralise the service for nursery children with special needs will go ahead – with the new neighbourhood-based hubs expected to be up and running by autumn half term.

The authority has said the network of hubs will offer personalised, targeted and specialist interventions for children and families and they will have staffing capacity that meets the needs of children with special educational needs.

Council bosses say a procurement process for the hubs has recommenced following a consultation that took place in June.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services and education, said of the plan: “This exciting and important work will enable more children with additional needs to access more support and provision in their local community.

“We would like to thank the parents, carers and providers who took part in the consultation process, their feedback has been invaluable in helping us to take the next steps in our vision to make improvements in education for children with SEND.

“Children and families will continue to be supported by their early years providers and respective families will be contacted to discuss transition arrangements where applicable.”

The council has not confirmed the locations for the hubs although plans have been submitted for a hub to be created at Caslon Primary School, in Cradley.

The decision to press ahead with the plan was signed off by Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, in the absence of Cllr Buttery – official documents confirm.

Parents and carers with any concerns or questions can contact the early years team on 01384 814364 for additional advice or support, the council has said.