WORKINGTON MP Sue Hayman has hit out at proposals to change the way children with special educational needs are supported in her constituency.

Cumbria County Council has launched a consultation into the proposal, which would see the creation of five hubs, none of which would be based in Allerdale.

There are currently 28 schools – supporting 114 children – across the county which are funded by Resourced Provision from the High Needs Block (HNB), an element of funding given to Cumbria by the Government to pay for education in schools.

The county council is proposing to move the Resourced Provision funding to five hubs, based in the county’s special schools, and make all associated specialist teachers and support staff employees of the council, rather than them being employed by individual schools.

This would mean staff could be redeployed to where they are needed most.

The closest hubs for Allerdale children would be Mayfield in Whitehaven and James Rennie in Carlisle.

Mrs Hayman said: "I'm going to write to the county council as part of their consultation, I'm really quite concerned about this proposal. I had a number of different people, parents and support groups, saying they fear this is a plan to remove all services from Allerdale.

"I want to ask the county council for assurance that all pupils will be able to access those services. I already get people complaining to me they can't access services effectively."

Cockermouth School has launched a petition in a bid to save its oversubscribed and highly respected programme of care for autistic pupils.

More than 700 people have signed the document in opposition to the changes proposed by the county council.

Mrs Hayman said she was also concerned about the future of the service at the school.

Dr Rob Petrie, headteacher at Cockermouth School, said the proposals will have a negative impact on pupils and staff. At the moment staff and pupils are integrated into main school life, creating an inclusive environment.

“We are currently oversubscribed in our Resourced Provision - 29 students when our capacity is 24, a situation that reflects the dire need for further places for autism across the county,” said Dr Petrie.

“The proposed consultation acknowledges this shortage but, in our opinion, does not tackle this in the correct way. There is a significant shortfall in the county High Needs Block budget.

“This proposal aims to redress some of that shortfall by creating hubs that will centrally employ staff, thus removing them from being employed by schools such as ours.”

The central employment is aimed at increasing flexibility of response and also tackling the current practice of paying some schools for so-called ‘ghost places’. These are places in schools with Resourced Provisions that receive funding from the HNB, even though the places are unfilled.

“Whilst we support the ending of this practice, and acknowledge the difficulties this will present to some schools, restructuring the entire Resourced Provision layout within the county seems a huge overreaction,” said Dr Petrie.

Full details of the consultation can be found at