Parents frustrated at 'half-empty' buses pupils can't use
Parents see "half-empty school buses" travelling past their home to their child's school that they would be happy for pay for, but cannot under the rules, the National Parents Council - Primary has told the Oireachtas education committee.
Parents' representatives have called for a review of the school transport scheme, and for it to be made available to all children who need to travel to and from school.
Although it carried about 116,000 children in the last school year at a cost of €182m, the operation of the transport scheme is a cause of ongoing controversy, arising from changes in the eligibility rules introduced in 2011.
The education committee is exploring a number of issues, including the selection criteria and rules relating to the awarding of contracts, catchment areas, special needs requirements and eligibility of students who can avail of the service.
The committee heard that the number of children with special education needs availing of the scheme had more than trebled from 3,333 in 2012 to 11,650 in 2016, provision for which accounted for €83.5m of the past year's budget.
The National Council for Special Education told the committee that, in general, the scheme worked well for students with special needs.
However, some parents faced difficulties if they wanted to send their child to a special school and were told they were ineligible for transport because it was not their nearest school, even though the nearest school may not have the resources they believed their child needed.