Education | School transport availability in Co Kildare
To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which she can continue to alleviate hardship caused by the lack of the availability of school transport in respect of various school-goers at primary and second level in County Kildare; if concessionary tickets may issue in the short term given the fact that parents are at work and unable to do school deliveries or pickups; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the last school year over 121,400 children, including over 15,500 children with special educational needs, were transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €289m in 2021.
In July 2022, Government announced funding for the waiving of school transport scheme fees for the coming school year as part of a wider package of cost of living measures.
Ticket registration for the 2022/23 school year closed on 29 July by which time almost 130,000 applications/registrations were received for mainstream school transport. This figure includes 44,299 new applications as well as roll-overs from the previous school year.
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 on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.
Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who completed the application process on time, will be considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.
Temporary Alleviation Measures is a measure pending completion of the review of the School Transport Scheme, which was initially introduced at post-primary level in 2019 and will be continued for the 2022/2023 school year. Under these measures, 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.
In line with normal practice, all eligible children who completed the application and ticket registration process on time for the 2022/2023 school year will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.
Following discussions with Minister McGrath and officials in DPER as part of the budgetary process some additional funding has been approved for the scheme which will allow officials in consultation with Bus Éireann to consider and evaluate where temporary additional capacity may be available.
The initial focus will be where families applied on time and who previously held concessionary tickets, to alleviate the impact of the increased demands on the scheme for those families. However, it is important to stress that this is subject to capacity considerations. Constraints in sourcing vehicles and drivers in certain areas of the country may also mean that it may take a number of weeks to explore solutions for additional capacity.
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