Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
265. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which an evaluation continues of the school transport system throughout north County Kildare with a view to ensuring the availability of transport to the greatest extent possible with particular reference to the needs of children who have been awarded the service previously but have subsequently been informed otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24082/22]
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. 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 kms from and are attending their nearest national school, and at post primary level where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest post primary school/education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
As the Deputy is aware, the 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 and how it currently operates, its broader effectiveness and sustainability and that it adequately supports the provision of services to students and their families.
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.
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 for the 2021/22 school year for 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 next phase of the review which is currently underway. Decisions in regard to measures for the 2022/23 school year will be made shortly. The Steering Group will continue to report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses.