A report published today has found a dramatic increase in the number of special classes being opened in Irish schools in recent years.

The report shows that the rate of opening of special classes has more than trebled compared to 20 years ago.

It has gone from eight classes per year in the 1990s to up to 28 per year between 2009 and 2011.

The report was commissioned by the National Council for Special Education and carried out by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin.

Special classes cater for children with learning disabilities such as autism.

The report finds the growth in provision is more marked at post-primary level.

This change reflects Government policy in recent years of incorporating children with learning disabilities into mainstream education.