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.
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. Given the evolving situation with Covid-19 the work of the Steering Group had been delayed. However, an initial meeting of the Steering Group was held on the 11th of February in order to recommence the process, which will continue over the coming period. The review is being conducted to ensure that the school transport is fit for purpose and that it serves students and their families adequately.
A Working Group has been established to review the School Transport Scheme as it currently operates and will make recommendations to the Steering Group. The Working Group will report initially on preliminary findings regarding eligibility, before moving to consider and report on broader issues such as the objectives of the scheme and the integration of the scheme with other initiatives.
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.