Wednesday 24 April 2019

Sherlock slams 'do nothing' attitude over school bus places

Deputy Sean Sherlock
Deputy Sean Sherlock

Bill Browne

The Labour TD for Cork East, Deputy Seán Sherlock, has criticised what he described as the "do nothing" attitude of Government in relation to the issue of school transport.

He said that parents across north Cork are facing another summer of uncertainty over the issue of school bus places when the new term beings in September. 

"Parents once more will have to wait until the last minute to find out if they are successful for the so-called concessionary seats on their local school bus route," said Deputy Sherlock.

The issue of bus places has become fraught in recent years after a 2011 change in how they're allocated.

The previous arrangement involved school catchment areas. Now seats are allocated based on the nearest school to a pupil's home. In total, more than 114,000 children avail of school transport in rural areas, with some 24,000 travelling on a concessionary basis at an overall cost of €182m last year.

Concessionary passengers are those who are accommodated on buses if there are spare seats once all "eligible" students get their place. They are allocated tickets at random and pay for their passage.

"The problem here is that parents have already paid. The department (of Education and Skills) now know the numbers that need transport, yet they persevere with rigid contracts on bus sizes, rather than allowing a more flexible system to emerge."

Deputy Sherlock said sit was not good enough for the Independent Alliance ministers Shane Ross and John Halligan, both of whom have transport folios, to say that parents know the risks when applying for  a concessionary bus seat.

"The Department must ensure that parents and schoolchildren have certainty before the first day of school," he said.

"If this Government is to have any positive impact in this area it must work with parents and schools to ensure there is an adequate school transport programme that caters to all needs."