Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Education and Skills
School Transport Administration
222. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when refunds will be issued to parents in respect of school bus fees for the Covid-19 closure period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6040/20]
319. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when Bus Éireann will receive approval to issue school bus ticket refunds in view of the fact that schools will not reopen before September 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6548/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 319 together.
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.
In the current school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, are transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.
The purpose of the 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.
The decision taken by the Government to close schools with effect from 13th March 2020 was taken in the interest of protecting our pupils, their families, teachers and those members of the wider community and is one of the many measures taken to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Given that the school transport services have not been available to children from 13th March, it was recently decided that at the end of the current school year a refund for that period of closure will be issued to parents. The Department is currently engaging with Bus Éireann in considering how best to facilitate these refunds.