Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (409)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

409. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Education if she has considered overhauling the existing post-primary school transport scheme in order that antiquated rules and metrics relating to qualifying distances are removed in favour of a new model based on bus scheduling being centred on local demand; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6490/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 113,100 children, including over 14,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

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 post primary scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest school/post-primary centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

In October 2019, my predecessor 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 have been drafted and a Steering Group has been established.

Given the evolving situation with Covid-19 the work of the Steering Group had been delayed. Plans are now in place for the initial meeting of the Steering Group, with a view to agreeing the terms of reference and commencing the review process.

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; 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.