Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Education and Skills
96. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the return to 100% capacity on school buses is to remain in place in view of the current Covid-19 situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [59673/21]
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the 2020/21 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.
For the 2020/21 school year, based on public health advice the Department provided for School Transport Scheme services to fully operate, but with additional measures in place including the operation of post-primary transport services at 50% capacity. Primary services operated at 100% capacity but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place.
For the 2021/22 school year, planning for school transport scheme services 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 the term began in this new school year. This included the operation of post-primary services at 50% capacity. The Department has kept this position under review as the vaccination programme for children on post-primary services was rolled out and as the lifting of restrictions on public transport services proceeded.
In line with the lifting of restrictions on public transport, and with effect from the return of schools following the October mid-term break, implementation commenced for post-primary school transport services to resume operating at 100% capacity. All other measures relating to hygiene, pre-assigned seating, cleaning and the wearing of masks by post-primary students will remain in place subject to further review. With regard to primary transport, measures relating to hygiene, pre-assigned seating and cleaning continue to be in place also.
With regard to post-primary special needs transport services, the Department is working with schools on a case by case basis where such services may be required to continue operating at 50% capacity.