Sunday 22 October 2017

Significant school bus changes next year

Junior Minister John Halligan TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Junior Minister John Halligan TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Large-scale changes to the school transport scheme will be necessary from September 2018, the minister in charge has warned.

While John Halligan has promised not to downsize any buses for the next school term, he warned "significant changes" are necessary "to ensure value for money in the school transport scheme and to ensure that school transport services are designed around eligible children on an equitable basis nationally".

He has asked the Department of Education to work with Bus Éireann to carry out a "detailed route analysis identifying where there will be substantive changes to the route network or vehicle size".

A comprehensive communications plan will be put in place to inform all parents of likely changes. The system currently caters for 116,000 children, 12,000 of whom have special needs.

The Seanad yesterday heard the case of one child with special needs who has to spend two hours travelling to school.

Responding, Mr Halligan said: "There is no way a child with special needs should be on a bus for two hours, and I will look at that. This is the first I have heard of that. That would be unacceptable to me, if that is the case."

The minister said there are "flaws and small hiccups" in the system.

"When we are transporting so many children, on so many vehicles, for so many hours, over so many miles - 100 million kilometres every year - of course there will be some faults, but it has always been my aim for every eligible child to be transported to and from school," he said.

Irish Independent

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