Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne has called for a new guarantee to be introduced to ensure no child loses their place on board a school bus if they had been allocated a concessionary seat in either junior infants or first year of secondary school.

Deputy Byrne said this measure would ensure that a child would not lose a school bus place after being allocated one on a concessionary basis when they start school. The Fianna Fáil Spokesperson called for the new guarantee to be implemented in Budget 2018.

Deputy Byrne said, “It’s common sense that once a school bus place is allocated at the start of the child’s time at school, even on a concessionary basis, it should be guaranteed for future years. No child or parent should have to go through the ridiculous annual ordeal of waiting to hear whether or not they have retained their place on the school bus. Often parents are not told whether their child can keep a school bus place until the first week back at school.

“This is bureaucratic nonsense which would cost relatively little to do away with. The Government can put an end to this administrative nightmare once and for all by introducing a guarantee ensuring that children cannot lose a school bus place once one has been allocated to them. This guarantee would apply to children who receive so-called ‘concessionary tickets’ at the start of their school careers. Thereafter they would be treated as eligible ticket holders.

“I have estimated that there are over 1,000 such pupils who lose these concessionary tickets on an annual basis. The school bus guarantee would cost in the region of about €1.4m to provide in Budget 2018.

“This is a common sense proposal which will reduce the burden on families while alleviating the mountain of bureaucracy that is involved in the allocation of places on school transport each summer. Many parents make decisions as to what school to send their child based on bus availability. It’s unfair to pull the rug from under families who have made decisions based on the information available to them.

“I have long been critical of this issue and the attempt by the Government to undermine the School Transport Scheme. Fine Gael has consistently attempted to reduce the number of pupils eligible to avail of the scheme. It seems truly remarkable that Minister Bruton is still explicitly trying to exclude children on concessionary tickets — who pay an annual fee to be accommodated on these buses — by making Bus Éireann use smaller buses.

“School transport use should be encouraged rather than discouraged by the Government policy of using smaller buses and imposing senseless bureaucratic restrictions,” concluded Deputy Byrne.