Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Junior Education Minister to ensure more flexibility in the administration of the School Transport Scheme.  Recent changes in criteria have resulted in cases whereby one sibling qualifies for the scheme while another younger sibling may not.  Difficulties have also arisen with the measurement of distances between homes and schools.

Deputy Smith raised the issue in the Dáil with Minister John Halligan this week.

“The School Transport scheme is a fantastic programme, which is extremely important for rural families.  However, the scheme underwent a number of changes a couple of years ago which have impacted families in my own area, as well as in other counties.  In one instance I was contacted by a family who had one child approved for the School Transport Scheme, but a second child was only offered a place on the scheme if they attended a different school.  This is a nonsensical situation and it caused great anxiety for the parents.  We cannot have a situation where siblings are split up because the criteria has changed slightly”, said Deputy Brendan Smith.

“The Minister must ensure that a common-sense approach is taken in these cases and I am calling for more flexibility in cases where more than one child is applying for the scheme.  We need to be practical in terms of distances and allow the Bus Éireann staff the flexibility to use the most used route rather than the shortest route in certain circumstances.

“The beginning of the school year is already a stressful time for parents and students alike, they do not need the additional pressure of worrying whether their children will be able to attend the same school come August.

“I welcome Minister Halligan’s engagement with me and my colleagues on this important issue.  I just want to ensure that siblings are not separated and that those who qualify for the scheme at primary level have access to it in secondary school as well.

“I am looking forward to the next meeting with the Minister – and I will be calling on him to send out a clear message that common sense will prevail”.