Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Education and Skills
276. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she plans to amend procedures to permit adult escorts such as special needs assistants to accompany children in their care on mainstream school transport when this is deemed appropriate by school authorities and when there is space on the bus, considering the benefits this will bring from the perspective of costs and the development of the children concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49359/21]
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 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). There is a facility within the Special Needs Transport Scheme for the appointment of a School Bus Escort where a child’s care and safety needs while on school transport are such to require the support of an escort.
My Department commenced a review of the School Transport Scheme in February 2021. The review is being conducted with a view to examining the current scheme, its broader effectiveness and sustainability, and to ensure that it serves students and their families adequately. The review encompasses the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs and the Primary and Post-Primary School Transport Schemes in terms of how each element of the schemes currently operate, to include eligibility criteria, trends, costs and cost drivers, and overall effectiveness in meeting the objectives of the schemes. The review will also examine the potential for integration of different strands of the scheme and a more co-ordinated approach with other Government Departments that also use transport services.