Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Department of Education and Skills
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were 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 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.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year where such services are in operation.
My Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. My Department has also been engaging with Bus Éireann on the logistics involved with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, in line with those required on public transport, aligned to the public health advice received shortly before schools reopened which advised that the post-primary scheme should run at 50% capacity.
My Department is engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, in order to implement measures so that any post-primary services that could operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity are doing so and over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing
I am pleased to advise that Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure that full implementation of the public health recommendation of running buses for post-primary children is achieved as quickly as possible on the post-primary scheme and on the special educational needs scheme for post-primary children. As well as additional funding, significant numbers of additional vehicles, drivers and bus escorts will be required. Bus Éireann is implementing different means of providing extra capacity with existing operators, including upgrading vehicles, additional runs or additional vehicles being provided. Where additional services will need to be procured, Bus Éireann has put in place a framework of operators that are willing to provide additional services where required.
For those children who are eligible for transport under the terms of the post-primary school transport scheme and whose parents decide not to use post-primary transport for the 2020/2021 school year, in light of the impact of most recent health advice, my Department will provide a grant to support them with the cost of private transport arrangements. Parents of children on mainstream services were asked to inform the Department by Friday 4 of September and parents of children on Special Educational Needs services were asked to inform the Department by 18 of September, if they wished to avail of this option. Grants will be paid at the end of the school year following receipt of relevant documentation confirming the number of days the child/ren have attended school in the 2020/2021 school year.
I can advise that, to date, my Department has contacted 336 families of mainstream eligible children to confirm their request and to outline next steps in regard to availing of this grant. My Department is currently processing the details in the emails received from families of children on SEN services and will shortly be contacting these families in regard to the next steps. When this process is complete my Department will contact the Deputy directly with full information on the numbers of families that have opted to avail of the grant towards the cost of making their own transport arrangements and will provide this information by county in tabular form as requested.
247. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of school bus services; her views on reports of the cancellation of services by Dublin Bus for a number of schools including a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29930/20]
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.
In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were 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.
My Department is aware that Dublin Bus has cancelled a number of services that operated in the main to serve certain schools in the greater Dublin area. These services were operated separately by Dublin Bus and children paid fares or availed of a range of weekly tickets when travelling. They were not part of my Department’s School Transport Scheme.
My Department understands that Dublin Bus has written individually to each affected school, explaining the rationale for the discontinuation of the services and outlining alternative transport options where applicable.