School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.
The purpose of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.
Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers. Applications for transport provision, under the terms of this scheme, should only be completed in circumstances where children are not in a position to avail of standard school transport services.
The Department and Bus Éireann are very conscious of the specialised nature of transport provision for children with special educational needs. This is reflected in the standard of dedicated service provided and the fact that these services are generally planned and timetabled to operate on a door-to-door basis.
In certain cases, the Department also provides funding to schools for the employment of escorts to accompany children whose care and safety needs require this level of support while they travel to and from school.
The sibling of the child referred to by the Deputy is eligible under the terms of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, and Bus Éireann has advised he is availing of a service that caters for a number of children; there is also an escort on board this service.
However, the child referred to by the Deputy is not eligible for school transport under the terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme as he is not attending his nearest school.
The terms of the School Transport Scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.