Education | Eliminating areas of friction in the school transport system
To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which she can bring forward a review of the school transport system in order to identify and eliminate areas of friction resulting in dissatisfaction amongst parents and students with particular reference to County Kildare and the rest of the country; if the school transport section currently in charge of this service is the appropriate way to deal with the situation; 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 €338.9m.
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.
Significant consultation has been undertaken as part of this review. A public survey was administered for parents/guardians and students who use the service and those who do not use the service but who would like to. A broad array of stakeholders including schools, special education interest groups, industry representatives and other Government Departments were all consulted as part of this review.
Phase 1 of the review examined the impact of eligibility criteria on mainstream pupils who were eligible for transport to their nearest school but attending their next nearest school. The report was completed in June 2021.
Following consideration of this report, for the 2021/2022 school year, the provision of temporary alleviation measures was approved for transport for post-primary students who are otherwise eligible for school transport, but were attending their second nearest school and had applied and paid on time. These measures have been continued for the current and the 2023/24 school year, pending completion of the review.
These measures mean that transport is provided for post-primary pupils who are eligible for transport to their nearest school and are attending their second nearest school and, who apply on time for school transport and pay by the closing date.
Phase two of the review has progressed significantly and is being completed in tandem with phase three which is well underway.
While work on the review was impacted somewhat by the current conflict in Ukraine, and by the increased demand for the scheme in summer 2022 due to fees being waived, my officials are working to complete phase 3 of the review within the coming weeks 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.
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