School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 121,400 children, including over 15,500 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 €289m in 2021.
The purpose of the 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.
With regard to increasing fuel costs, as the Deputy will be aware, Government has announced a reduction in excise on fuel will result in a decrease in the cost of fuel. The reduction of 20 cent per litre on petrol and 15 cent per litre on diesel will be in place until 31 August at an estimated cost of €320m. This is a national measure aimed at easing the financial burden on contractors and families at this time.
In saying this, the Department of Education is aware that a number of contractors have highlighted concerns about the ability to sustain school transport services to the end of the current school year given the recent increases in the cost of fuel.
In this context, the Department of Education is considering in consultation with other relevant departments and Bus Éireann the implications that increasing fuel costs may have on the provision of school transport services and is engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on this matter. The Department is also very aware of the potential impact of the current situation in Ukraine which is impacting fuel prices further.