Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Transport

Photo of Michael MoynihanMichael Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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68. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her views on the review of the school transport system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23662/22]

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 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.

I know what a hugely important service school transport is for families and children. As you are aware 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. The review will consider issues such as climate action, supporting rural development and promoting where possible initiatives that encourage walking and cycling to school.

In June 2021, the Steering Group presented me with an initial interim report. Following consideration of this report, I approved temporary alleviation measures which allowed for the provision of transport for post-primary students who were otherwise eligible for school transport but were attending their second nearest school and had applied and paid on time.

Wider considerations relating to operation of the scheme are now taking place in the second phase of the review. The Technical Working Group has undertaken extensive consultation over the last number of months; including running a public survey for parents/guardians and students who use the service and those who do not use the service but who would like to. The Group has also consulted with a broad array of stakeholders including schools, special education interest groups, industry representatives and other Government Departments,

The Steering Group will continue to report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses.

While work on the review is being impacted somewhat by challenges including the pandemic and the impact on resources arising from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, it is anticipated that the completion of the final phases of the review will be in the shortest timeframe possible. I will then examine and consider the final recommendations once received from the steering group on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.

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