Written answers

Thursday, 16 May 2024

Department of Education and Skills

School Transport

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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181. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide an update with respect to a student (details supplied) in County Cork who is receiving school transport under the scheme for children with special educational needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22268/24]

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 of Education. In the current school year over 161,600 children, including over 135,000 pupils travelling on primary and post primary services, 19,800 pupils with special educational needs, and 6,800 pupils who have arrived to Ireland from Ukraine are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country.

The total cost of the scheme in 2023 was €382.02m.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

The National Council for Special Education acts in an advisory role to the Department of Education on the suitability of placements for children with special educational needs. Under the terms of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, the Department will consider the report of the Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO). School transport is provided to children with special educational needs who are attending the nearest school to their place of residence that is or can be resourced to meet their educational needs, as identified by the SENO.

The pupil to whom the Deputy refers is eligible for transport under the scheme. Their transport commenced in February 2023. The contractor unfortunately passed away in February 2024. Bus Éireann were subsequently required to tender services in line with procurement guidelines and are responsible for the allocating and vetting of a contractor to operate the service. A new contractor has since been secured for the route and is currently undertaking the vetting process. The families of the pupils will be contacted directly by the local Bus Éireann office when the service is ready to commence.

Both my Department and Bus Éireann are very conscious of the challenges faced by parents awaiting transport for students with special educational needs. Families of children who are eligible for these services may therefore apply for an interim Special Transport Grant, which is a once off payment, paid retrospectively to families once the service has recommenced. The purpose of the grant is to assist with the cost of private transport arrangements the family had put in place while no service is available. The affected families should contact School Transport Section, at school_transport@education.gov.ie, for more information on this grant.


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