Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Education and Skills
251. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she is satisfied that sufficient school bus capacity will be available for the forthcoming school year in view of difficulties that arose in some areas for the 2020-21 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38729/21]
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. 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.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application and payment process on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and are offered seats where capacity exists after all eligible children have been catered for.
My Department recently commenced a review of the School Transport Scheme. Following commencement of this review in February 2021 and a detailed analysis and report conducted by the Technical Working Group in the interim period, the Steering Group recently presented me with its initial interim report, a report on eligibility with an examination of issues for mainstream pupils relating to the nearest and next nearest school.
Following consideration of this report, I have approved the extension of temporary alleviation measures which allow for students who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and have applied and paid on time. This will result in transport being provided for an estimated additional 1,800 post-primary pupils in the 2021/2022 school year, who otherwise would not be accommodated under the scheme. This arrangement will be in place for the coming school year pending completion of the full review of the School Transport Scheme.
Wider considerations relating to the objectives of the scheme and the criteria for eligibility will take place in the next phase of the review which is now underway. The Steering Group will continue to report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses, with a view to presenting a final report with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.