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School Transport

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 December 2020

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Ceisteanna (436, 437, 438, 441)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

436. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education the number of school transport scheme routes servicing the second level education sector in County Donegal that are operating at 50% capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40387/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

437. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education the number of school transport scheme routes servicing the second level education sector in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40388/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

438. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education when the 50% capacity will be implemented for the outstanding school transport scheme routes servicing the second level education sector in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40389/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

441. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education the status of the implementation of the 50% school transport capacity rule in County Donegal, particularly in the Milford catchment area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40452/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 436 to 438, inclusive, and 441 together.

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. 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 €219m in 2019.

The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year on all school transport scheme services - both Bus Éireann services and private contractor operator services.

Based on the public health advice published in early July, and the updated advice received from the HPSC on 7th August and from NPHET on the 18th August, the Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place and with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, using 50 per cent of passenger capacity. The implementation of 50% capacity has been put in place where possible over the last number of weeks and over the coming weeks, Bus Éireann will be implementing 50% capacity on a rolling basis as soon as it is possible to do so on all remaining routes. Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure that full implementation of the public health recommendation is achieved as quickly as possible on all post-primary services, including Special Educational Needs post-primary transport services.

Bus Éireann and the Department of Education have put in place measures to support infection prevention and control on primary and post-primary services. The Department has also issued detailed information and guidance to parents and children on the operation of school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. Measures include all post-primary students wearing masks, all bus drivers and bus escorts receiving PPE where necessary, as well as funding to support additional cleaning and hygiene measures, including the provision of sanitiser on all buses. Seating plans with pre-assigned seating are also in place on all routes, with children sitting next to their siblings or classmates where possible which reduces interaction on school transport services.

Bus Éireann has confirmed the details as requested in relation to the number of School Transport routes in County Donegal, including those operating at 50% capacity both in Milford and in County Donegal.

This information is this is set out in tabular format in the attached table.

Post Primary Routes

Co Donegal

Milford

Total Number of Post Primary Routes

201

26

Total Number of Post Primary Routes that have been 50% Socially Distanced

136

17

Percentage of Post Primary routes that have been 50% Socially Distanced (%)

68%

65%

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