The Taoiseach has said there cannot be a situation where children with special needs are refused by schools and told to look elsewhere.

It comes as the Cabinet today considers draft legislation that would allow the Minister for Education to direct schools to quickly provide places for students with special educational needs.

It would mean directions could be issued to schools within six to eight weeks after receiving a detailed report from the National Council for Special Education.

The current Section 37A process has, in the past, taken up to 18 months to secure a school place for children.

It can involve the minister issuing up to four notices to a school, which can then make its case to the minister.

Ministers will today hear that the new legislation would be of immediate benefit in providing places this September.

It is also aiming to ensure there is a child-centered approach to the provision of special education classes.

If approved by the Cabinet, the legislation could begin its journey through the Oireachtas as early as Friday, with an extra Dáil sitting taking place that day.

Micheál Martin said there cannot be a situation generally where "people are saying no first, go somewhere else" but added that he was not referring to specific schools.

His comments come after the Government named four schools that the Department of Education claimed were not engaging with them regarding places for children with special needs.

It comes as Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan clarified comments she made over the weekend, criticising and naming four Dublin primary schools.

Mr Martin said the Government wants to work with schools and there is an obligation to ensure there is an open access education system with inclusivity and resources provided.

He said children with special needs must have the same entitlements as every other child and they are working to ensure all children who are waiting on places in schools for September will have them.

"That is the intention of Government," he said.

The Taoiseach said the Government is "pushing strongly" legislation to ensure there will be access to education for children with special needs at primary and second level.

He said today's legislation will not just help with the current situation but also into the future.

Separately regarding Britain's bill on the Northern Ireland Protocol, Mr Martin said the unilateralism being displayed by the British government is very regrettable and unacceptable.

He said it is time that the UK engages with the EU to resolve outstanding issues and consult also with all parties in NI and the Irish Government, adding that there is a substantive agenda for the Cabinet to discuss today.

Separately, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he is hoping to bring in legislation to abolish hospital charges for children.

He said while emergency department fees would remain, he is seeking to remove inpatient and day case charges for children.

He said he is also focused on proposing an amendment to facilitate the introduction of free contraception, starting with its provision to women aged 17-25.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, the minister said he is hoping to secure agreement on both of these imminently and said it would make a "big difference" in reducing healthcare costs.