Thursday, 13 October 2016

Questions (42, 43, 46, 51, 62, 67)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

42. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme; and if his Department will consider increasing funding to the scheme in line with the recommendation by a charity (details supplied) of €5 million resulting in an abolition of fees for parents. [30028/16]

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Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

43. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme; if his Department will consider increasing funding to the scheme in line with the recommendation by a charity (details supplied) of €5 million resulting in an abolition of fees for parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30029/16]

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Kathleen Funchion

Question:

46. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme; and if his Department will consider increasing funding to the scheme in line with a recommendation by a charity (details supplied) of €5 million resulting in an abolition of fees for parents. [30045/16]

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Denise Mitchell

Question:

51. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme; if his Department will consider increasing funding to the scheme in view of the recommendation by a charity (details supplied) of increasing funding by €5 million resulting in an abolition of fees for parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30059/16]

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Martin Ferris

Question:

62. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme; and if his Department will consider increasing funding to the scheme in line with the recommendation of a charity (details supplied) of €5 million resulting in an abolition of fees for parents. [30128/16]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

67. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the review of the school transport scheme; and if his Department will consider increasing funding to the scheme in line with the recommendation of a charity (details supplied) of €5 million resulting in the abolition of fees for parents. [30152/16]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42, 43, 46, 51, 62 and 67 together.

As committed to in the Programme for Government, a review of the concessionary charges and rules element of the School Transport Scheme has been undertaken.

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. During the 2015/16 school year in the region of 114,000 children, including some 10,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in approximately 4,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

Children are generally eligible for school transport where they meet the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

The annual charges for school transport are €100 per child attending a primary school and €350 per child attending a post primary school. The annual family maximum for primary children is €220 while the overall family maximum is €650 per annum.

These charges, which may be paid in two instalments in July and December, are a contribution towards the overall cost and do not reflect the true cost of providing school transport services. Research carried out in the context of the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme showed that the annual unit cost per pupil for the provision of school transport was some €1,000, €950 and €7,000 for primary, post primary and children with special educational needs (excluding escorts) respectively.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who hold valid medical cards (GMS Scheme) are exempt from paying the annual charge; children who are eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs are also exempt from paying the annual charge.

Given that the annual cost of school transport provision is some €175m it is not proposed to change the current charges.