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.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.
Children who apply for school transport but 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.
In the 2019/2020 school year, over 30,100 pupils availed of school transport on a concessionary basis. 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 using an agreed selection process.
The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. The Department has also been engaging with Bus Éireann on the logistics involved with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, in line with those required on public transport, aligned to the public health advice received shortly before schools reopened which advised that the post-primary scheme should run at 50% capacity. The implementation of 50% capacity has been put in place where possible over the last number of weeks and over the coming weeks, Bus Éireann will be implementing 50% capacity on a rolling basis as soon as it is possible to do so on all remaining routes. As the additional capacity is rolled out, where spare capacity is created, further tickets will be allocated to those children eligible for the scheme who have paid late and for other applicants seeking concessionary tickets.