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Universal access to school transport needed now – Sherlock

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As applications open for the new school transport year, Cork East TD Seán Sherlock has said it is not good enough for parents to be kept in the dark on the type of scheme and that universal access for school transport should be brought in.

“What we want to see is the views of people who’ve made submissions reflected in the final policy.,” said Deputy Sherlock.

“We want school transport for all. We want to put an end to this idea that there’s a lottery for tickets and for places on school buses. If society was working properly, there would be access to school transport for everybody who needs it. The qualifying criteria are too strident, too stringent in that the distance away from the school needs to be expanded to encompass more children. That’s what we’re calling for. A universal school transport service would be the best way to get people out of cars in school buses, get kids to school, and I think that’s what people want.”

To ask the Minister for Education the number of submissions that were received on the public consultation on school transport by county in tabular form.

REPLY
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.

As the Deputy is aware, 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 and how it currently operates, its broader effectiveness and sustainability and that it adequately supports the provision of services to students and their families.

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. The review will also examine the potential for integration of different strands of the scheme and a more co-ordinated approach with other Government Departments that also use transport services.

The information required by the Deputy is not available in the format requested, however, I can advise that following my announcement of the commencement of the stakeholder consultation process on 20th January 2022. Letters issued to a number of stakeholders including school management bodies, parent representative organisations, special education interest groups, EU member states, and school principals. Parents/guardians and Post Primary students were invited to complete online surveys.
Work is continuing with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to progress the survey and focus groups for children in primary schools and children with special educational needs.

A series of bi-lateral meetings have been held with relevant Government Departments, agencies/bodies and organisations to discuss the review and to seek their views.

The following surveys and submissions have been received in my department to date and work is underway to assess and report on survey results and submissions received.

Stakeholder Groups Numbers received
Surveys from Parents/Guardians 8,200
Surveys from Post Primary Students 2,400
Submissions from school management bodies, parent representative organisations, principals representative organisations 6
Other Departments and Organisations 4
School Principals 73
Special Education Interest Groups and industry representatives 4
Other (emails received from parents/guardians) 37
Other (emails received from employees of schools) 18

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