Written answers

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Department of Education and Skills

School Transport

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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95. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied). [23384/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Based on the public health advice published in July 2020, and the updated advice received from the HPSC on 7th August and from NPHET on the 18th August 2020, the Department has engaged with Bus Éireann to ensure that school transprt services fully operated in the current school year, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place and with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing using 50% of passenger capacity. This requirement for 50% of passenger capacity applies to post-primary services only.

In addition, the Department has published guidance for schools in relation to school activities that traditionally take place in the last term, for example activities involving school tours sports days etc. The private hire of transport services by schools for such activities are not within the remit of the Department’s School Transport Scheme and any such arrangements are a matter for schools to organise and manage locally. The Department advises that any private transport arrangements organised by a school should comply with the general guidelines for children using School Transport Scheme Services and have appropriate infection control measures in place.

The Department has also published guidance for schools that provide various teaching and learning approaches, including bringing pupils outdoors and to local amenities to enhance learning, support social distancing, promote physical activity and help positive wellbeing. While from 10 May the easing of public health restriction provides for travel between counties, schools are encouraged to minimise the use of buses for school tours this year, to keep it local and avoid long trips. Where buses are involved in a school trip, it would be better to avoid whole year groups going on the same trip.

Decisions in relation to educational trips are a matter for each individual school authority and it is the responsibility of each school authority to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place while children are participating in school trips and that all such activities are in line with public health guidelines.


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