Questions Nos. 180 to 188, inclusive, answered with Question No. 117.

School Transport

Questions (189)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

189. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an extension to a school bus route (details supplied) is under consideration; if so, when the outcome will be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28514/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

Bus Éireann is responsible for the planning and timetabling of school transport routes. Bus Éireann endeavours, within available resources, to ensure that each eligible child has a reasonable level of school transport service in the context of the Scheme nationally.   

Bus Éireann has advised that the service in question is operated by a 53 seater vehicle and it is not possible to extend this service as the road is too narrow for a large vehicle to traverse.  Bus Éireann has advised that the pick-up point referred to by the Deputy has been assessed as being suitable as a pick-up point under the School Transport Scheme.

Parents are responsible for ensuring that children are brought safely to and collected safely from Bus Éireann designated pick up and set down points.

The terms of the scheme are applied equitably and on a national basis.

Student Universal Support Ireland Expenditure

Questions (190)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

190. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason €2 million less was spent on the SUSI grant in 2019. [28522/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In the published Revised Estimates Volume (REV) for 2019, the allocation for student support and related expenditure is €404,450,000. This figure will cover costs associated with SUSI grants and related activities plus expenditure on other access related activities to support various disadvantaged initiatives such as the Student Assistance Fund (SAF), the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) and the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH).

The Deputy will be aware that the SUSI grant scheme, SAF and FSD are all demand led schemes and expenditure can vary from year to year, depending on demand. The figures for SUSI grants are not yet finalised for 2018/19 however, to date circa 79,500 students have been assessed as eligible for SUSI grant support. The latest academic year that statistics are available for the SAF and FSD is 2017/18 and in that year almost 27,500 students received supports from these schemes. It is anticipated that similar numbers of students will qualify for support under the three schemes in 2019/20.

As in previous years, the level of expenditure and demand on each of the schemes will remain under review throughout the year. It is anticipated that the 2019 REV allocation will meet the anticipated demand on the various schemes for which funding has been provided.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions Nos. 192 to 203, inclusive, answered with Question No. 117.

Questions (191)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

191. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the income thresholds for the SUSI grant will rise in 2020 to make it more accessible for students and families. [28523/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, approved course, previous academic attainment and means.

The eligibility criteria for student grants including the income thresholds reviewed annually in my Department and approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. As the Deputy will be aware, all proposals made in relation to education expenditure, including changes to income thresholds, will be considered in the context of the Budget 2020.

The aim of the student grant scheme has always been to make a contribution to the cost of going to college, covering the full cost has never been a feasible option.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Office in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Questions Nos. 192 to 203, inclusive, answered with Question No. 117.