Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
137. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps that she is taking to ensure that flexible and adequate school transport provision for the increased number of children travelling to schools given the increase in the number of children attending who are fleeing Ukraine from the Russian invasion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23830/22]
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.
Under the terms of the School Transport Schemes children are eligible for transport at primary level where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school, and at post primary level where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest post primary school/education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application process and paid on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.
The Department in consultation with Bus Éireann put in place a process to facilitate the provision of School Transport Scheme Services for children arriving to Ireland from Ukraine. For children residing with a host family or for children of Ukrainian families living in their own private accommodation, an application for school transport can be made via a link to a form (which is available in Ukrainian and Russian) for families/host families to complete in order to apply for school transport. This form is available on Gov.ie. Children will be accommodated quickly on existing services where there is capacity. Children will not be charged for their ticket and normal eligibility criteria will be waived. If there is no service or capacity, a grant can be offered to the family as appropriate.
For families and children residing in accommodation centres (or similar), school principals may apply for transport for children attending their school who are residing in such accommodation. School principals should complete the information required on a form which is available on Gov.ie and return it to their local Regional Education And Language Team (REALT) co-ordinator. The information will be submitted by REALT to School Transport Section of the Department of Education, which will in turn liaise with Bus Éireann in order to provide school transport services as required.