Donegal Fianna Fáil Deputy Charlie McConalogue has slammed the Government over changes to the school transport scheme, which will see pupils from the Urris area forced to relocate from Carndonagh to Buncrana. The change, which sees a new system of calculating distances, was brought in by Bus Eireann, which operates the scheme on behalf of the Department of Education.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “This new system is completely senseless. Not only does it advocate the use of the road through the Mamore Gap, which is extremely treacherous during the winter months, it will see children from Urris forced to relocate from Carndonagh Community School to Buncrana. This has the potential to lead to a situation where two siblings are attending two separate schools in different locations, as the new rules only came into force in September 2012.
“There is a long tradition of children from the Urris area attending Carndonagh Community School. However, the introduction online registration for the school transport scheme as well as the use of Google Maps to determine distances, pupils from the area are being told they now have to attend secondary school in Buncrana”.
The school transport system uses a variety of methods to calculate the shortest route from a child’s home to the nearest school, including a specially designed GPS mapping system.
“I am extremely concerned that the system used to calculate the distance does not take the condition of the routes in question into account. Bus Eireann has decided to use a road through Mamore Gap in calculating one of the routes, despite the fact that the road itself is dangerous, particularly in the winter months, and could put the safety of these children at risk. Despite the concerns raised by local parents, Bus Eireann is refusing to rule out this option”, added Deputy McConalogue.
“The Education Minister has washed her hands of this situation by claiming that Bus Eireann is responsible for the planning and timetabling of school transport routes, as it operates the school transport scheme.
“I have been working on this issue with both Councillor Martin McDermott and Councillor Rena Donaghy and I will be raising this issue directly with Minister Jan O’Sullivan on the floor of the Dáil this week. I will be insisting that she pushes Bus Éireann to apply a sensible and safe approach to this situation so that the students of Urris can continue to attend the Carndonagh Community School”.