Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Questions (267)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

267. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter regarding Bus Éireann contractors (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11215/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

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. 

In the current school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, are 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 €219m in 2019. 

Last autumn 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. The terms of reference and scope of the review have been finalised and a cross-departmental steering group led by my Department established. 

Following the initial announcement that schools would be closed from the 13th to the 29th March to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, and in light of the exceptional circumstances, it was agreed that school transport contractors operating on the School Transport Scheme would be paid at the normal rate for the period up to 29th March 2020.  It was further decided that a payment of 50% would be afforded for the week commencing Monday 30th March until Friday 3rd April 2020. Thereafter, the normal arrangements applied for the period of scheduled school closures associated with the Easter Holidays (6th April – 17th April inclusive). It was subsequently agreed that contractors should be paid for a further 5 days at 50% to cover the period Monday 20th April to Friday 24th. 

In light of the most recent announcement that schools will remain closed until the end of current school year it has been decided that contractors will continue to be paid at 50% while schools are closed in the current school year.  

My Department is not in a position to provide funding for private bus contractors not contracted to operate on the Department’s School Transport Scheme.