Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Education and Skills
253. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide an update on the school transport policy; if she will set out her plans to make changes to the scheme ahead of the 2023-2024 school year; and if she will remove the lottery-based system and replace it with a needs-based model of service. [2477/23]
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 147,900 children, including over 18,000 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country.
In addition, school transport scheme services are being provided in the current school year for over 3,800 children who have arrived to Ireland from Ukraine.
The total cost of the scheme in 2022 was €332.2m.
A review of the School Transport Scheme commenced 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 the review the Steering Group presented me with an initial interim report in June 2021, with regard to eligibility and with an examination of issues for mainstream pupils relating to the nearest and next nearest school.
Following consideration of this report, for the 2021/2022 school year, the extension of temporary alleviation measures were approved for transport for post-primary students who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and had applied and paid on time.
These measures are being continued for the current school year, pending completion of the review and means transport will be provided for post-primary pupils who are eligible for transport to their nearest school and are attending their second nearest school and who applied by the 29th April and registered for a ticket by the 29th July.
While work on the review was impacted somewhat by the challenges of the pandemic and the impact of the current conflict in Ukraine, it is anticipated that the final phases of the review will be completed shortly with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.