Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education Robbie Gallagher says he has serious concerns that the Education Minister is seeking to downsize the School Transport Scheme – by reducing bus sizes and enforcing strict criteria for students who currently qualify for a place.
Over the past number of years there have been issues with concessionary places and now some families are being told that they will only qualify for a place if the students change schools.
“I am gravely concerned that the policy being pursued by the current Government is setting a dangerous precedent. Students who do not live far enough away from their school to be eligible for the scheme were previously able to avail of concessionary places if there were extra seats on the bus. However, the Department appears to be trying to exclude these students, despite the fact that they pay for their places, by making Bus Éireann use smaller buses”, explained Senator Gallagher.
“I cannot understand the Government’s logic. The use of school transport should be encouraged and the fact that the Department appears to be focused on reducing the number of students who can avail of it is baffling.
“What is also worrying about Minister Bruton’s plan is the extremely strict criteria being adopted. I have had a number of families contacting my office who are worried that their children may have to change schools to ensure that they still qualify for the School Transport Scheme. This is deeply unfair – children should not be forced to change schools and move to an area where they have no friends, no family and no attachments.
“The School Transport Scheme is extremely well run and a vital resource, especially for students in rural areas. It has served us well to date and I am urging Minister Bruton not to tamper with this important programme. I will continue to raise this issue with the Minister and his officials until the situation is meaningfully resolved”.