Wednesday, 6 October 2021
Department of Education and Skills
63. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when school buses which are operated by Bus Éireann will be returning to full capacity given that private school buses are operating at full capacity at the moment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48531/21]
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2020/2021 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.
Planning for school transport for the 2021/22 school year has proceeded on the basis that the public health measures in place as schools closed at the end of the last school year would remain as term began in this new school year. This includes the recommendations from Public Health that post-primary services would operate at 50% capacity. All other measures relating to hygiene, pre-assigned seating, cleaning and the wearing of masks by post-primary students are also in place. However, as the vaccination programme for children on post-primary services is rolled out and as the lifting of restrictions on public transport services proceeds, the capacity limit of 50% on post-primary school transport services will be subject to ongoing review and the Department will be considering the position in this regard over the coming weeks.
64. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the restrictions on bus drivers preventing those aged over 70 can be lifted in view of the current shortage of drivers to allow those aged 70 years or over to continue to drive; if those over 70 can be allowed to drive a Bus Éireann contracted bus if they undergo a medical assessment and are deemed medically fit to do so; the other efforts being made to fill the shortfall in drivers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48541/21]
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2020/2021 school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, were 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.
It is Bus Éireann company policy that normal retirement age for all Bus Éireann staff is currently 66 years. However Bus Éireann part-time School Bus Drivers and drivers nominated by private operators who operate service as part of the School Transport scheme may continue to perform in the role provided they hold the requisite licence and satisfy an annual medical examination until they retire at age 70.
This policy and criteria is applied to all drivers who provide school transport services on behalf of Bus Éireann equally.