I thank you, Sir, for permitting me to raise the subject matter of Questions Nos. 197 and 198 of 10 March last on the Adjournment.
Ballyogan Estate is a recently built Dublin County Council housing scheme of approximately 200 houses. It was to have been the first of a series of public and private developments which would ultimately result in a new suburb of approximately 1,500 homes serviced by local shops, schools and so on. For a variety of reasons the other developments have not yet gone ahead. This new housing estate is virtually isolated from the rest of suburban south Dublin.
A primary school was planned for the area but this has not been built. To date the Minister has given no indication as to whether he intends to proceed with its construction. Meanwhile, the 200 homes have been occupied over the past six years by young families with children of primary school age. There are now approximately 300 primary school pupils in the housing estate, sufficient to justify a ten-teacher school. The nearest primary school, in Sandyford, can absorb a small number of these children. The vast majority have been placed in primary schools at Balally, two and a half miles away; Dundrum, three and a half miles away; Kilternan, three miles away, Cornelscourt and other south Dublin primary schools.
Transporting the children to these schools poses a huge problem in that two-thirds of the families are dependent on social welfare and very few have private transport. The public bus service to the estate is inadequate. In any event the parents would be reluctant to allow young children to travel, unaccompanied, to places like Dundrum where there is a bad traffic problem. It is too costly for parents to travel with their children. For example, one parent accompanying three to school would cost £26.50 per week, an impossible sum for a family on social welfare or in receipt of low wages.
The parents have organised private buses to transport the children to school. These buses accommodate a total of 165 children. Approximately 40 or 50 children travel by Dublin Bus to various schools, these usually being the older children. The remainder either walk or are transported privately to their schools. The cost of financing this transport is an intolerable burden for the parents, the scale of charges ranging from £4 for one child to £10.50 for four children. Parents on social welfare or in receipt of low incomes in some cases spend up to 10 per cent of their weekly income on school transport, an intolerable burden on them.
The Minister recently made some arrangements with Dublin Bus to give free transport to the children attending Sandyford national school on the scheduled No. 44 bus service. This has been welcomed by the parents concerned. However, it caters for a minority of the children only, the majority of them still attending schools for which their parents must bear the transport costs. When the Minister was making the arrangements for transport to Sandyford school he indicated that he was prepared to examine a possible extension of the free transport scheme to cover these unique circumstances.
First, the Minister should make a clear statement of what are his intentions with regard to the construction of the proposed primary school at Ballyogan since, if that school were provided, the problem of school transport would not then arise. Second, I should like him to give the House an assurance that he will provide some interim relief for the parents, perhaps by subsidising the private arrangements the parents have made to have their children transported to school. This is a unique position because of the relative isolation, albeit in a suburban area, of this housing estate which is badly serviced by public transport. The parents cannot have their children transported to school other than by engaging in what is a very costly exercise for them. They have to do this because the Department of Education still have not provided a primary school in this area where it was promised when the housing development was going ahead.