Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Farming and Skills Bobby Aylward TD has reacted with disappointment to the news that the Department of Education is proposing no changes to the School Transport Scheme.

Deputy Aylward said, “I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Government have proposed no meaningful change to the school transport scheme in the recently published review. It was obvious to me from the early stages that there was no real intent from the Department to affect any meaningful change within the system.

“The programme for Government committed to publishing the results of the review in advance of Budget 2017, yet the cross party group that was established to examine the scheme wasn’t called to meet until September. To make matters worse it only met twice. There was no realistic chance afforded to opposition TD’s to influence the process and no credence was given to our opinions on what needed to change.

“The school transport scheme is an essential part of school life in rural communities across Carlow and Kilkenny. The uncertainty that has been allowed to build up over the last few months is a major source of stress for students and parents alike. Many students have lost their place on the local school bus since September.

“The review has now been published and it proposes no changes to the scheme, which indicates that more children will lose their bus pass in the months ahead. School bus places were already cut back right across the country at the start of the school term, despite the commitment made by Minister Halligan. It now looks like even more bus passes will be lost.

“Furthermore, parent’s safety concerns regarding dangerous locations for pick up and drop off points are being completely ignored.  Younger siblings are being asked to attend different schools to their brothers or sisters despite strong family ties or a history of attendance in their local parochial school. We also have an appeals system which has not overturned a decision in two years. It is clearly not fit for purpose and should be scrapped and revamped immediately.

“I will continue to fight for change and improvement in how school transport is rolled out across the country. Public representatives from all political backgrounds are overwhelmed with queries from parents who are understandably worried that their children will be left without school transport. The lack of progress made by Minister Halligan in this area to date is deeply troubling,” concluded Deputy Aylward