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School Transport

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 2 November 2021

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Questions (538)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

538. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Education when the nearest school rule relating to will be scrapped and be replaced with a nearest and next nearest rule; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52793/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2020/2021 school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, were 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 have completed the application and payment process on time for the 2021/22 school year are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. In addition all post-primary pupils who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and who have applied and paid on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.

My Department commenced a review of the School Transport Scheme in February 2021. The review is being conducted with a view to examining the current scheme, its broader effectiveness and sustainability, and to ensure that it serves students and their families adequately. The review encompasses the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs and the Primary and Post-Primary School Transport Schemes in terms of how each element of the schemes currently operate, to include eligibility criteria, trends, costs and cost drivers, and overall effectiveness in meeting the objectives of the schemes.

In June 2021, as part of phase 1 of the review, the Steering Group presented me with an initial interim report on eligibility with an examination of issues for mainstream pupils relating to the nearest and next nearest school. Following consideration of this report, I approved measures which allowed for the provision of transport for post-primary students who are otherwise eligible for school transport but are attending their second nearest school and had applied and paid on time. This arrangement is in place for the current school year pending completion of the full review of the School Transport Scheme

Wider considerations relating to operation of the scheme are now taking place in the next phase of the review which is now underway. The Steering Group will continue to report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses, with a view to presenting a final report with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.

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