Thursday, 29 April 2021
Department of Education and Skills
63. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme as announced on 11 February 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22397/21]
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.
In October 2019, my predecessor announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to taking a fresh look at the service and its broader effectiveness and sustainability. Given the evolving situation with Covid-19 the work of the Steering Group had been delayed. However, an initial meeting of the Steering Group was recently held in order to recommence the process, which will continue over the coming period. The review is being conducted to ensure that the school transport is fit for purpose and that it serves students and their families adequately.
This review will also build on the proposals in the Programme for Government as they relate to school transport, including examining the options to reduce car journeys and assessing how the School Transport Scheme can work in liaison with the Safe Routes to Schools Programme; examining the options for providing a better value and a better service for students, including and examining issues such as the nearest or next-nearest school.
It is planned that the Steering Group will report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses, with a view to presenting a final report later this year with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.