26 June 2021
By Elaine Murphy
The Cork East TD Seán Sherlock has said that the review actions announced by the Government last week on school transport to place an additional 1,800 post primary school children on school buses is welcome, but is only a drop in the ocean on what is needed. From a pro-rate approach, Cork would stand to gain only 69 extra school places/
“The decision of the preliminary report of the Steering group to maintain the school transport system as is, is deeply flawed,” said Deputy Sherlock.
“An additional 1,800 places across the State could see the county of Cork gain a mere additional 69 places across routes. Families need results on this. The annual scramble for concessionary tickets is unedifying and not fair to families. The fact is, the system is not currently fit for purpose and the Government parties of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party know that.”
“That we have waited since October 2019 for the results of this review and the response is everything is fine, work away, is not good enough. These moves won’t deliver for families, we need more capacity added.”
Responding to queries from Deputy Sherlock, Minister for Education Norma Foley said:
To ask the Minister for Education the number of applications received by her Department in each administrative area for school transport for the coming academic school year; the number of applications approved; and the number of applications disallowed in tabular form.
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.
The purpose of my Department’s School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.
Under the terms of my Department’s School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2kms at primary and 4.8kms at post-primary and are attending their nearest School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application and payment process on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.
Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only. Concessionary transport is subject to a number of terms and conditions including the availability of spare seats on an existing service. The availability of concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s education cycle.
All school transport services are reviewed over the summer months. Arising from this review, routes may be altered, extended or withdrawn depending on the number and location of eligible children who will be availing of school transport for the following school year.
The closing date for applications for School Transport for the 2021/22 school year was 30th April 2021. The number of new mainstream applications received by Bus Éíreann for the School Transport Scheme at that date was 20,454.
The number of new transport applications for pupils with special educational needs was 2,429 on 14th June 2021.