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School Transport

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 15 December 2020

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Questions (315, 334)

Joe McHugh

Question:

315. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education her views on the current increased level of vehicular traffic bringing children to school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43110/20]

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Joe McHugh

Question:

334. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education the cost of putting on extra school buses in response to Covid-19; if she will consider keeping the extra buses allocated in order to deal with the extra demand for services which takes place each September; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43099/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 315 and 334 together.

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

Following updated health advice from NPHET on 18th August, which was that post-primary services are required to operate using 50% of passenger capacity, Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure that full implementation of this public health recommendation is achieved as quickly as possible on all post-primary services. Based on the analysis conducted by Bus Éireann, which were based on a full academic year, the estimated costs ranged between an estimated €87m to €135m taking into account a range of rates and a range of potential solutions from re-organising or upgrading existing services to the requirement to go to the market to source all additional vehicles required.

In relation to the level of vehicular traffic bringing children to school, a review of the school transport scheme has been anounced 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 have been drafted and a Steering Group has been established.

Due to the current evolving situation with Covid-19 and the continued restrictions the work of the Steering Group has been delayed. It is intended to convene the Steering Group shortly and to agree and supplement revised terms of reference to reflect the Programme for Government.

The Review will build on the proposals in the Programme for Government as they relate to school transport, including examining the options to reduce car journeys and assessing how the School Transport Scheme can work in liaison with the Safe Routes to Schools Programme; and examining the options for providing a better value and a better service for students, including and examining issues such as the nearest or next-nearest school.

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