School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. In the 2019-2020 school year more than 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million km at a cost of over €219 million in 2019.
Earlier this week I announced a comprehensive plan detailing a package of measures and resources to be provided to facilitate schools in reopening. I also published a detailed roadmap for the full return to school. This roadmap set outs how schools will reopen for all students from the end of August. It has been developed in line with public health advice issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, HPSC, the Roadmap for Society and Business, and follows comprehensive and intensive engagement with all relevant stakeholders, including Bus Éireann, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the National Transport Authority on the logistical considerations that arise in planning for the operation of school transport services for the reopening of our schools.
School transport scheme services operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department will fully operate as normal, in line with public health advice, when schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year with the appropriate hygiene and other measures in place.
In line with normal practice, all children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application and payment process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who complete the application and payment 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.
All school transport services are reviewed over the summer months. Arising from this, routes may be altered, extended or withdrawn depending on the number and location of eligible children who will be availing of school transport for the following school year.
The option to make payment for transport for the 2020-2021 school year is now available. Given the exceptional circumstances I have asked Bus Éireann to extend the closing date for payment to 4 August 2020. Families wishing to avail of transport for the 2020-2021 year are advised to make payment by this date.