Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

School Transport

11:10 am

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

As the Deputy will be aware, the school transport scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the current school year, more than 121,400 students, including more than 15,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of more than €289 million in 2021.

I know what a hugely important service school transport is for families and children. As the Deputy referenced, my Department commenced a review of the school transport scheme in February 2021. The review is being conducted with a view to examining the current scheme, its broader effectiveness and sustainability, and to ensure it serves students and their families adequately. The review encompasses the school transport scheme for children with special educational needs and the primary and post-primary school transport schemes in terms of how each element of the scheme currently operates to include eligibility criteria, trends, costs and cost drivers, and overall effectiveness in meeting the objectives of the schemes. The review will also examine the potential for integration of different strands of the scheme and a more co-ordinated approach with other Departments that also use transport services. The review will consider issues such as climate action, supporting rural development and promoting, where possible, initiatives that encourage walking and cycling to school.

In June 2021, the steering group presented me with an initial interim report on eligibility with an examination of issues for mainstream pupils relating to the nearest and next-nearest school. Following consideration of the report, I approved alleviation measures that allowed for the provision of transport for post-primary students who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and had applied and paid on time. Wider considerations relating to the operation of the scheme are now taking place in the second phase of the review. As part of this phase, the Department has conducted an extensive stakeholder engagement process. The Department is analysing the views of relevant stakeholders, including parents, guardians, students and other Departments, so that they may be considered as part of the assessment and in informing policy on the future operation of the scheme.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.