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Education | Considering capacity issues when refusing access to school transport among high demographic growth

To ask the Minister for Education if capacity issues in local schools are taken into consideration when refusing access to school transport in north Kildare, with particular reference to the high demographic growth in recent years; if cognisance can be taken of same to ensure that eligibility is also considered on the basis of a family selecting the nearest available school as opposed to their nearest school only to ensure fair and ready access to the school transport system; 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 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.

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.

A minimum number of 10 eligible children residing in a distinct locality, as determined by Bus Éireann, are required before consideration may be given to the establishment or retention of school transport services, provided this can be done within reasonable cost limits.  

Families who wish to avail of school transport and have their eligibility status assessed should apply on-line in a timely manner to Bus Éireann on Bus Éireann’s website at  The closing date for school transport applications for the 2022/23 School year was Friday, 29th April 2022.  Families may still apply for school transport following this date, however, if applications are received after this date, a seat on a transport service is not guaranteed as most services are now running at full capacity.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application process on time are now 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.  Because of the nature of concessionary transport for non-eligible children and the priority of providing places for eligible children, there may be an excess of demand over supply for concessionary places, in these cases Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for spare seats using an agreed selection process.

In cases where the Department is satisfied that the nearest school is full, eligibility for school transport will be determined based on the distance that children reside from their next nearest school having regard to ethos and language. To establish that the nearest school is full parents/guardians must provide certain documentary evidence including confirmation that an application for enrolment in the nearest school was made within the deadline dates specified by the school and confirmation from the school authorities that the school was full.

Temporary Alleviation Measures at post-primary level have been continued for the 2022/2023 school year pending completion of the review of the School Transport Scheme. This means that transport arrangements will continue to be provided for a number of post-primary students who are attending their second nearest school, who have applied and registered on time and who live more than 4.8km from their nearest school.

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.

While work on the review was impacted somewhat by the impact of the current conflict in Ukraine, and by the increased demand for the scheme in summer 2022 due to fees being waived, it is anticipated that the review will be completed shortly with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme. Once approved by Government it is planned that the review will be published.

Planning for the operation of the school transport scheme for the 2023/24 is expected to be completed shortly.  Bus Éireann will advertise the details of the 2023/2024 school year process through their website and social media platforms. Details will also be published on the Department’s website and, in line with normal practice, will also be communicated to Oireachtas Members.

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