Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Education and Skills

School Transport

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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273. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when she expects the 50% capacity rule for school transport to be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49335/21]

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

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.

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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274. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when a school transport grant will be approved for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49336/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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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 the Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.

In general, children with special educational needs are eligible for school transport if they are attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet their special educational needs. Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENO).

The child referred to by the Deputy is eligible for school transport under the terms of the above scheme and resides 21.6km from his school of attendance. I am pleased to advise that School Transport Section has sanctioned the extension of an existing bus service to cater for this pupil's transport to the school in question. The pupil's school has been notified of this sanction and the family will be contacted by the local Bus Éireann office with regard to travel arrangements.

Both the Department and Bus Éireann are very conscious of the challenges faced by parents awaiting transport for students with special educational needs. Families of children who are eligible for special educational needs school transport may therefore avail of the Special Transport Grant towards the cost of private transport arrangements until services are finalised.

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