The Department of Education will give advocacy groups an update on Thursday on proposals to establish special education centres to accommodate children with autism and some other disabilities who have been unable to secure a suitable school place.

Groups met with the Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan today to discuss concerns at plans to set up centres across the capital.

There was outcry last Wednesday when details of the plan emerged.

The proposal was strongly criticised by advocacy groups and parents, with some saying it amounted to the segregation of children with special education needs.

Autism charity AsIAm told RTÉ News that it was told at today's meeting that it would get a response on the proposals at a meeting scheduled for two days time.

Minister of State Madigan issued a statement this lunchtime expressing her determination to use special legal powers under the Education Act to compel schools to create special places for special needs students if necessary.

However the statement makes no mention at all of last week's controversial 'centres’ proposal.

When asked whether or not the proposal was still on the table a spokesperson for Minister Madigan said she had "no comment to make on that at the moment."

In her statement Ms Madigan said: "While we are making good progress in engaging with schools that do not yet have a special class, I have committed to using my power under section 37(a) of the Education Act 1998, if necessary, to compel a school to provide additional places.

"The National Council for Special Education has now formally written to me as Minister to advise me that it has formed an opinion that there is insufficient special class capacity in primary schools and special school capacity in Dublin."

Ms Madigan said the NCSE will provide a detailed report which will consider "existing provision, any relevant proposed building works and which schools may be able to provide additional provision."

"Everyone would prefer that schools welcome students that need school places into their schools, and would open the classes needed, with the support of the Department and NCSE," she said.

"I was pleased to meet with stakeholders again today on this and to reiterate that I won't hesitate to compel schools to open classes if it is necessary to do so."

Last week, Ms Madigan said the creation of special education centres to cater for children with autism and other intellectual disabilities who cannot secure a school place remains an option.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission strongly criticised the plans and autism campaigners and school principals reacted with shock to the decision.

Details of the plan - designed to address a severe shortage of school places in the capital - emerged last Wednesday night and involve a network of five centres to be run by the Education and Training Boards.