Friday 23 February 2018

'Parents are still finding out they have no bus place'

Front from left, students Rory Howley, Ciara Walsh, Abi Frisby, Sadhbh McDonnell, Killian Dungan, Darragh Davis, Chris O’Keeffe, Cian McCormack and Evian McCormack pictured with their disgruntled parents (back row) where the school bus to New Ross used to stop in Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Front from left, students Rory Howley, Ciara Walsh, Abi Frisby, Sadhbh McDonnell, Killian Dungan, Darragh Davis, Chris O’Keeffe, Cian McCormack and Evian McCormack pictured with their disgruntled parents (back row) where the school bus to New Ross used to stop in Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The parents of 16 children in two Co Kilkenny communities discovered their children had not been allocated seats on a school bus to New Ross just weeks before term commenced.

They have criticised the length of time it took Bus Éireann to tell them their children won't get concessionary seats and want a larger bus placed on the route.

Sinead Foskin and Anthony McDonnell's daughter Sadhbh (12) has started attending Our Lady of Lourdes, New Ross, Co Wexford, this week.

Their closest school is a mixed-sex, former vocational school in Mooncoin but her parents picked the New Ross school for its ethos and because it's all-girls.

Ms Foskin said they were on holidays on August 11 when they learned Sadhbh wouldn't be getting a seat on the bus.

"That left us 10 working days to try and come up with alternative options," she said.

She said they first made their application for a school place back in April and argued that Bus Éireann should be able to inform parents before August if their children have not been allocated a seat.

"If they had told us back in June that there is no way she was going to be awarded a concessionary ticket, I could have had time to consider other options for Sadhbh for school," she said.

Sadhbh case isn't the only one in the area.

There are 16 children who have been refused seats between the Mullinavat and Tullogher townlands in Co Kilkenny.

Two of the children who previously had concessionary tickets, but have now lost them, are going into sixth year.

Ms Foskin said the parents believe the system could be operated more efficiently.

"Parents are still finding out with schools opening this week that they're not successful. It's just an absolutely bizarre system," she said. They also argue a larger bus should be provided for the route to New Ross.

Ms Foskin said that the parents have paid €350 for each child - though this is being refunded due to their unsuccessful applications.

"That comes to a total of €5,600 per year available to increase the size of the bus," she said.

The Bus Éireann rules state that the availability of concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child's education.

The concessionary seats are allocated using a random selection process once all children who are automatically eligible - due to the distance between their homes and the school - are catered for.

Bus Éireann rules don't allow for larger buses to be placed on routes at an extra cost to the State.

A spokeswoman said the rural school transport system is "heavily subsidised" and most of the costs are met by the taxpayer.

A Bus Éireann statement referred to the guidelines of the School Transport Scheme. It states: "Routes will not be extended or altered, additional vehicles will not be introduced, nor will larger vehicles or extra trips using existing vehicles be provided to cater for children travelling on a concessionary basis."

The statement also said: "We are currently issuing tickets for school transport places as late payments continue to be received and every effort is made to accommodate as many concessionary applicants as possible, where capacity allows."

Irish Independent

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