Parents of children with special needs shouldn't have to fight for a school place for their kids, Josepha Madigan has said.
The Minister of State for Special Education was speaking as four new special schools are to be opened across the country are to be opened across the country.
The schools are to be opened in Limerick City, Enfield in Co Meath, Gorey in Co Wexford and South Kildare.
The schools will cater for young people with autism and complex learning needs up to the age of 18.
Minister Madigan told The Hard Shoulder the schools should be open by next September.
"The reasons why these locations were picked is because of the forward-planning that we've put in place over the last number of years," she said.
"We can anticipate where there is a demand and where capacity is needed.
"These should be up and running by September 2024, so it's very good news for these children".
'Fight the system'
Minister Madigan said she doesn't want parents to have to fight for their children.
"I think I can say with all certainty that in the last three years we have made such massive progress," she said.
"The amount of special classes we've increased by 59% in three years."
Minister Madigan said she wants the National Council for Special Education to get the funding it needs to employ more staff, suggesting it wasn't adequately resourced in the past.
"We managed to get them €13m, I fought hard for that in the Budget this year and the negotiations," she said.
"They're going to be able to hire and recruit up to 160 staff over the next few months, which'll really help parents ultimately.
"I don't want parents who have had this awful, horrific time of trying to fight the system - as they may call it - to get a place for their child.
"It's just simply not good enough, and I think we have made huge strides in that area.
"It's not just about getting a special class place or special school place, it's also about resourcing them adequately".
'30 children per school'
Minister Madigan said the new schools should cater for about 120 children.
"Each school will probably take between 20 and about 30 children - up to maybe 34 - so about 120 across the four special schools," she said.
"It's really important that we have adequate provision for these children, and it's good news that we'll have these in place".
The new schools are also the first in recent years to be established in the regions, following seven similar schools in Dublin and Cork over the past four years.
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