Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (129)

Brendan Smith

Question:

129. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 402 of 17 December 2020, the progress to date in increasing school bus capacity in view of the need to accommodate more students attending both primary and post-primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7485/21]

View answer

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.

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. The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.

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. 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.

To date circa 83% of total post-primary routes are in a position to operate at 50% capacity, comprising 78% of SEN post-primary and 86% of mainstream post-primary, and planning is underway for all remaining routes to be implemented at 50% capacity in the coming weeks; this will be progressed as schools reopen.