Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Offaly School Transport.


asked the Minister for Education (i) if he is aware that the pick-up point for collection of children attending the national school in the Presentation Convent, Rahan, County Offaly, has been changed from the top of Pullough Road to Kelly's Gate at Derrycooley, Rahan, which means that the children have to walk over two miles to this new pick-up point; (ii) the reasons for changing the collection point; and (iii) if he intends to restore the former collection arrangement.

School transport routes are organised to meet the needs of children who are eligible for free transport. Since there are no children eligible for free school transport residing west of Kelly's Cross, Derrycooley, the route of the service has been curtailed to that point.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary in a position to explain how these children were provided with school transport for many years in the past?

Arising from inquiries in respect of a scheme by public representative or others, it happens quite often that children who have been beneficiaries under that scheme may find themselves in the position that the original permission given is no longer tenable. That is what happened in respect of the students about whom the Deputies inquired.

As far as I am aware none of the parents was in communication with any public representatives prior to the change in the route. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the new route has the following effects on the children: first, they have to leave their homes about 7.45 a.m. and do not return until after 5 p.m.—and one of these children is aged about four years; second, is he aware that the new pick-up point is extremely dangerous and that the parents fear that this could result in serious accidents?

I am taking it that the Deputy is expressing concern for the Bracken, Rosney, Byrne and Kelly children——

And the Carroll child.

That point was not mentioned in the question, but I had it examined. Apart from Deputy Enright, I had representations from other Deputies in the area——

Here we go again.

Since the question was put down.

I heard of this problem before Deputy Enright put down his question. I am examining the position. The de jure position is that those children are not entitled to free transport or fare-paying concessions, but having regard to the fact that they had this for some years I am looking at this matter in detail and will give it sympathetic consideration.

If the Department made a mistake and gave transport to children to which they were not entitled, is it not a hardship on the children to remove the transport facility?

It does not necessarily follow that the Department made the mistake; it could have been made locally. When mistakes for which the children were not responsible have been made I would like to have permission to counter that by allowing those children to carry on as they had done in the past. Unfortunately the rules at the moment would seem to prohibit me from doing that. I am looking at the position and hope to be able to resolve the problem.

Is it a fact that in the current year, in relation to school transport, the rules are being applied very stringently and that many people who heretofore were given this facility, are now being excluded?

This question relates to a specific case.

That is a fact arising from an instruction given by my predecessor in October-November last year and I regret it very much.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary reversing that instruction?

Question No. 21.