For Written Answer on : 08/09/2022
Question Number(s): 1039 Question Reference(s): 44226/22
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 1115 of 26 July 2022, the entitlement to school transport for students attending their second nearest school in the 2022/2023 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the past 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.
Bus Éireann are processing applications and issuing tickets as soon as extra buses and drivers are sourced and become available to provide transport for the higher numbers qualifying for the service. However, regrettably the unprecedented numbers of new applications for the upcoming school year, has led to some delays in issuing tickets.
The normal eligibility criteria of the scheme still apply and tickets continue to be allocated in line with this criteria. Pupils at primary level are eligible where they live no less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest primary school. At post primary level, students who live no less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest post primary school/education centre are deemed eligible.
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.
In addition, pending completion of the outcome of the full review of the School Transport Scheme, Temporary Alleviation Measures at post-primary level will be continued for the 2022/2023 school year. Under these measures, which were initially introduced in 2019, transport will 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.
Any pupils/students who do not meet these criteria are deemed not eligible, or otherwise known as concessionary applicants, and are allocated a ticket based on the availability of a seat when all eligible children have been catered for.
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.