Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Ceisteanna (536)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

536. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Education and Skills if refunds will be given for school transport which was paid in advance for the 2019-20 academic year; if school transport costs will be reduced for the forthcoming academic year in view of the fact that school transport was paid for but not used after 12 March 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14752/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

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 the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219 million in 2019.

The decision taken by the Government to close schools with effect from 13th March 2020 was taken in the interest of protecting our pupils, their families, teachers and those members of the wider community and is one of the many measures taken to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Given that the school transport services have not been available to children from 13 March, it was decided that at the end of the current school year a refund for that period of closure will be issued to parents. My Department has been engaging with Bus Éireann in developing a plan for facilitating these refunds and I can confirm that refunds will be issued directly to all entitled family account holders.

The refunds process has commenced and refunds to those families who paid by cheque issued during the week commencing 29 June. With regard to families who paid by card, Bus Éireann is emailing all families due to receive a refund to advise them of arrangements. Further details on the refunds process is available at https://www.buseireann.ie/SchoolRefunds.