School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my 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 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.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2019/20 school year.
Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis and are facilitated where spare seats exits after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets using an agreed selection process.
In October 2019, I announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to ensuring funds are being spent in the most effective way to meet the objectives of the scheme. Terms of reference and the scope of the review are being considered by my officials and it is expected that a cross-departmental steering group led by my Department will be established shortly to oversee the review.