26 August 2017
By Elaine Murphy
Ballynoe children being split between 3 different schools-
Local Cork East TD, Kevin O’Keeffe has called for a common sense approach to be adopted by the Department of Education and Bus Éireann when it comes to the School Transport Scheme.
Deputy O’Keeffe was reacting to a number of cases in the East Cork area where children are forced to travel long distances to pick up points or walk down dangerous busy roads to get on the bus.
“The current situation is so strict that in some cases it is easier for parents to drive their kids to the school rather than drop them to the school bus pick up point. We have situations where the bus passes metres away from the student’s home but they are being told that they have to go to another bus stop to get on the bus. It’s a completely ludicrous situation.
“In the Ballynoe area, families are being broken up as a result of changes to the scheme. Historically, all students in the area would have been sent to schools in the town of Fermoy.
“Now, some are being sent to Midleton and some, believe it or not, are being sent to schools in Lismore, in an entirely different county.
“This is putting a lot of pressure on families who have children now being sent to different schools in different towns.
“I have also been dealing with a number of cases whereby one student is deemed eligible for a place on the scheme while their neighbours, who may only live a couple of hundred metres away, are not.
“This situation has come about as a result of the Department’s insistence that the distance between the home and the school is determined by the “shortest traversable route.
“Bus Éireann have clarified that it is the shortest traversable route by foot, and not by car. To my mind, this doesn’t make sense. There are routes that cars and indeed cars are not allowed to use, but children are being put out because they are walkable.
“Equally, some of the measurements are across small country roads, which are completely unsuitable for large school buses.
“If Department officials and representatives from Bus Éireann were forced to travel on some of these routes, they would not stand over the decision or the policy itself.
“There needs to be an element of flexibility within this system and I am calling on Minister Halligan and Bus Éireann to reconsider the current route guidelines and allow for a more common sense approach to be adopted,” concluded O’Keeffe.