School Transport – briefing note from Minister Cannon.

31st August, 2012

I received this briefing note from Minister Cannon. In it he explains the process and the thinking behind it.

There has been considerable coverage inlocal media of issues relating to schootransport to post primary schools over the last week, as well as some national coverage.

As the coverage has focussed on post-primary, this note deals with that area only.  A similar note was provided in relation to primary level last year.

The Department of Education and Skills, along with Bus Éireann, normally deal with a large number of queries in relation to school transport at this time of the year; the bulk of these queries relate to late applications and the non receipt of tickets.

This year they are also handling additional queries regarding the changes introduced for children who wish to avail of transport to post primary schools. They are working hard to resolve these issues where possible.

For your information, the below attempts to clearly set out the terms of the scheme, along with the appeal mechanisms available to parents.

Criteria

 In the past, catchment areas were the predominant criteria for how the post primary school transport system operated.  This was changed by the last Government in the December 2010 budget, but this is the first full year of operation of the new criteria, and so many parents may not previously have been aware of these changes.

The criteria applied are now much more simple.  Children are eligible for school transport to their nearest school – provided the distance involved is 4.8 kilometres or more.

The changes do not apply to children who were eligible for school transport under the catchment area system; these children will retain their eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided there is no change to their current circumstances.

Regrettably, the revised scheme may mean that siblings of these pupils who are enrolled in the same school for the 2012/13 school year may not be eligible for school transport ; these siblings may apply for transport on a concessionary basis.  Please note that the cost of a concessionary
ticket is the same as an ordinary ticket.

Allowance is made for children of minority religions, children attending Gaelcholáistí, and children with special educational needs in addition to this criteria.

Cost

 The actual economic cost of providing school transport is approximately €1,000 per child – this figure remains heavily subsidised by the state.  In total, we will spend €170 million on school transport this year.

The annual charge per post primary pupil remains at €350 and the family maximum remains at €650 per annum for the current school year.  As mentioned above, the same charges apply for concessionary tickets.

Eligible pupils holding valid medical cards (GMS Scheme) continue to be exempt from paying this charge. The option to pay the charges in two instalments in July and December also remains.

 However, children who hold a medical card, but who are not attending their nearest school, or do no meet the distance criteria, will still have to pay this charge.

At a time of severe economic crisis, indeed at any time, it does not make sense to transport children to a school other than their nearest one.  When these changes are fully implemented we will have a fair and economically sound school transport system in place.

Families with medical cards will continue to have their children transported to their nearest school free of charge.

 Process and appeals :

 Applicants for school transport must apply to Bus Éireann –there is no facility for applications to be handled directly by schools, or by the Department of Education and Skills.  Applications for this school year closed on 27th April.

The School Transport Appeals Board, which meets once a month, examines and determines appeals against the school transport application process.  The appeal form can be downloaded at:

http://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/School-Transport/School-Transport-Appeals/

Furthermore, any parent who is dissatisfied with the determination of the Board has the right to raise the matter with the Ombudsman for Children. Such appeals can be made online at:

http://www.oco.ie/complaints/make-a-complaint.html