School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 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 kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.
The purpose of the scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.
Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application process on time have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2019/2020 school year.
Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who completed the application process on time, are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats. Where the number of applications from non-eligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available, tickets are allocated using a random selection process.
Under the terms of the scheme, the number of spare seats varies from year to year, based on the capacity of the buses running on all of the various routes and the number of eligible children accommodated on each route. Hence there is no guarantee that a non-eligible child who received a place in a previous year will receive a seat the following year. It is included in the terms and conditions on the Bus Éireann online application that availability of seats may vary from year to year and that concessionary transport cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s education.
Bus Éireann has confirmed that the pupil referred to by the Deputy is not attending their nearest post-primary centre and is therefore not eligible for transport. Bus Éireann has also confirmed that the service in question is operating to capacity.