The Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion has said she felt "the need" to put legislation in place to ensure that schools may be forced to open places for special needs children if required.

Speaking to RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Josepha Madigan described how it can be a "battle" for parents to secure an appropriate place for their child and that she wanted to ensure they could help to "make that battle easier for them" with this legislation in place.

She said schools are currently being informed about the commencement of the legislation that was enacted during the summer.

Ms Madigan said it also extends to allowing the designation of school places to children in care or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She said: "It effectively puts schools on notice of the import of this legislation which commenced earlier this year.

"Also it lets schools know in their admission statements they must state categorically that they will cooperate categorically with the National Council for Special Education.

"There are also sections around failure to comply in terms of the boards of management."

She said it is hoped and envisaged that this legislation will only be used in " limited circumstances".

Ms Madigan said there will be 2,545 special classes, 1,803 at primary and 742 at post-primary, nationwide by the end of the year.

It is very important to stress the majority of those 2,545 special classes are opened outside of the Section 37A process.

But this does streamline and truncate the process whereby if I am given advice by the NCSE I can make a direction within six to eight weeks which before as we know was a very lengthy process."

She expects that over the next five years all post-primary schools should have at least four special classes in their schools to provide for the increase of children with special needs.

Speaking on the same programme, Sinn Féin's education spokesperson said there should now be a sense of the number of special needs places needed for next September.

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said some parents are "right up against the wire" and spend their summer worrying that their child will not have a school place by the new school year.

He acknowledged that there has been welcome investment in the area but said that more is needed.