Tuesday, 1 February 2022
Department of Education and Skills
96. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will report on her efforts to ensure that all students who have been deemed eligible for school transport, including those that missed the original payment deadline will be facilitated with places on school buses. [4622/22]
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the current school year over 121,400 children, including over 15,500 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 €289m in 2021.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time for the 2021/22 school year are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. In addition all post-primary pupils who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and who have applied and paid on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. This arrangement is in place for current school year pending completion of the full review of the School Transport Scheme.
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 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.
Following commencement of this review the Steering Group presented me with an initial interim 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 approved the extension of temporary alleviation measures in the current school year for transport for post-primary students who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and have applied and paid on time.
Wider considerations relating to operation of the scheme are now taking place in the next phase of the review which is currently underway. The Steering Group will continue to report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses.