Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Questions (166)

Michael McNamara

Question:

166. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education the status of the review of school transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28640/21]

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 114,100 children, including over 14,700 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 taking a fresh look at the service and its broader effectiveness and sustainability. 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 recently held 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.

This 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.

It is planned that the Steering Group will report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses, with a view to presenting a final report later this year with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.

The Steering Group will report to me initially on preliminary findings regarding eligibility, before moving to consider and report on broader issues such as the objectives of the scheme and the alignment of the scheme with other initiatives and wider Government policy. The Steering Group is due to report to me shortly with this preliminary interim report.