Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Questions (85)

John O'Mahony

Question:

85. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a pupil (details supplied) in County Sligo with special needs is being denied school transport to the school they are attending when there is no place available for them at a school nearer to their residence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28682/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The general approach to the provision of school transport is that application is made on behalf of a child at the commencement of their primary and post primary education cycle. At that point, a decision is made in relation to eligibility. Again, the general approach is that transport is provided to the child's nearest school subject to compliance with the distance criteria.

In the case of children with special educational needs eligibility for school transport is to the nearest school that is, or is capable of being resourced, to meet the educational needs of that child. It is important to stress that once eligibility is correctly determined, that eligibility remains for the duration of the child's education in that school. In practice this means that there is not an annual application process but that the initial decision to grant eligibility remains in place.

In the case in question, the child was eligible for school transport to the nearest school resourced to meet the educational needs of the child. The parents, as was their prerogative, opted to send the child to a more distant school. At the time of this decision there was a place available for the child at the nearest school and the parents chose not to avail of it. The consequence of this was that school transport eligibility was not available under the scheme to the more distant school.

The fact that the enrolment position of the nearer school has subsequently changed is not relevant, as eligibility under the scheme is determined at the point the child commences school. Indeed to adopt a different approach would logically require an annual review of all cases where parents opt to send the child to a school other than their nearest with a view to granting school transport in circumstances where the nearer school has subsequently become full.