Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Education and Skills
James Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
Question 205: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason persons (details supplied) whose children have been using school transport for the past seven years are now deemed ineligible and have been told that they will have to pay â‚¬400 for two children, which they cannot afford, leaving them without any means of getting the children to and from school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17545/11]
Ciarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael)
I wish to inform the Deputy that school transport arrangements under the Closed School Rule originated from the last major amalgamation of schools in the late 1960â€™s. Under the Closed School Rule, transport is generally provided to the school of amalgamation for pupils who reside in a closed school area. However, over the course of the last forty two years, many parts of Ireland have experienced changes in population, the number of schools in an area may have increased and private transport is more widely available. While my Department acknowledges the importance of school transport, my Department must always seek to ensure that every service that is funded by the public is operated in a manner that delivers for pupils, parents and taxpayers alike.
The changes to school transport services relating to the Closed School Rule were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna FÃ¡il-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme.
It is important to stress that there are a number of dimensions to the cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR). The first of these, which will be implemented from September 2011, involves the uniform application of the distance criterion to all pupils travelling under the primary transport scheme, including those travelling under the CSR. This means that children residing less than 3.2 kilometres from their school of amalgamation will be deemed ineligible for school transport.
This change to school transport provision means that the distance eligibility criterion of 3.2 kilometres will be applied uniformly and equitably on a national basis.
In line with the terms of the national primary school transport scheme, children residing less than 3.2 kms may only apply for concessionary transport subject to a number of conditions including payment of a charge, currently of â‚¬200 per annum. There is no exemption from this charge.