The Minister for Education Joe McHugh has written to 39 primary schools in south Dublin directing them to establish special classes for four and five-year-old children with autism.

The children are due to begin school next year but there is a significant shortage of places in the area for children with ASD and some other conditions.

The National Council for Special Education says that eight dedicated classrooms need to be established, to cater for 43 children, and an additional 38 places are required.

Last September schools were advised of the need for additional special education places. However, schools complained of barriers such as a lack of space, and a lack of training.

Now Mr McHugh has exercised his right under legislation to direct schools to open classes.

Thirteen Special Classes and two Early Intervention Classes have already been established in south Dublin for September 2020.

It is understood that there still insufficient special class and school provision in the south Dublin area.

Two months ago the NCSE reported to the minister and identified schools where special classes could be provided.

It is also understood the NCSE told the minister that the Department of Education runs the risk of a legal challenge if places are not found for these children and that parents are very concerned that their children will be without school places for the next school year.

Under the legislation, schools have 14 days to make representations as to why they cannot comply with the direction.