School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. In the 2018/19 school year there were 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 at a cost of over €200m in 2018.
The purpose of the 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. Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
The annual charge for school transport services is €100 per annum for primary children and €350 for post primary children with a maximum family charge of €220 for primary children only or €650 overall.
Children who are eligible for school transport and who hold valid medical cards (GMS Scheme) are exempt from paying the annual charge. In addition, there is no charge for children who are eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for children with Special Educational Needs.
In general the unit cost for transporting mainstream children is some €1,000 per annum, while the unit cost for transporting children with special educational needs is €7,000 or €9,000 when the provision of escorts are included.
In 2018, receipts from school transport charges amounted to some €15.9m or about 8% of the total cost of the scheme provided by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
The school transport scheme is a demand-led service based on the number of eligible children who apply to avail of transport.