School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.
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.
Under the terms of the Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.
Children who apply for transport and who are not eligible are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.
Bus Éireann, who operate school transport on behalf of my Department, have advised that the child referred to by the Deputy is not eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme as she is not attending her nearest school.
Concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s Post Primary school education cycle. Where the number of applications for transport on a concessionary basis exceeds the number of seats available, Bus Éireann determines the allocation of the tickets and refunds payments made on behalf of those concessionary applicants for whom no seats remain.
Bus Éireann has advised that the pupil referred to by the Deputy was not successful in obtaining a concessionary seat, and all tickets have been allocated on the service in question and that the service is operating to capacity at present.
A refund was issued to this family on 21 August, 2020.