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Parents can claim €25.50 per week for driving teens to school as bus squeeze fear bites

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Announcement: Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Julien Behal

Announcement: Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Julien Behal

Announcement: Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Julien Behal

Parents will be paid up to €25.50 a week to drive teenage children to and from school if they can't get a socially distanced seat on the school bus.

A grant will be available for alternative travel arrangements for second-level students who are eligible for a seat but squeezed out by ­public health restrictions.

The family car qualifies and the allowance is based on the distance between home and the pupil's school, with a maximum daily payment of €5.10.

Parents will bear the cost up front and reimbursed at the end of the school year on receipt of documentation confirming the number of days of school attended.

The payment will apply only to students who are eligible for a seat on school transport and not those who get a concessionary place if there is spare capacity.

Approximately 52,000 second-level pupils are eligible for the transport scheme, but it is not known how many may need to rely on an alternative to the service because of the social distancing rule.

Education Minister Norma Foley announced the allowance following advice from the Covid-19 public health body, Nphet, that there should be strict social distancing for post-primary pupils on school buses.

Her department has committed to phasing it in and, where possible, buses at 50pc passenger capacity will be rolled out when the term opens.

Ms Foley said 1,600 more buses may be needed to meet the Nphet requirements.

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As school reopening approaches, teachers are voicing concerns about the health implications of returning to the classroom, according to the secondary teachers' union the ASTI.

Some teachers say it will be difficult to bring all students back at the beginning and want to stagger return over a number of weeks.

ASTI is seeking a direct meeting with health experts next week to outline their safety concerns, especially about teachers suffering from serious underlying illnesses.

The union wants to talk to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and review the advice provided to the Department of Education.

ASTI president Ann Piggott said they were receiving a high number of communications from teachers expressing a variety of concerns, including the safety of students and teachers in the high-risk category who have underlying illnesses.

She said school communities had been working hard to get ready for reopening, but that there was "much trepidation amongst teachers".

Meanwhile, returning Leaving Cert candidates and Junior Cycle students can look forward to much more choice in the 2021 State exams because of the disruption which has been caused to their education by Covid-19.

The Department of Education has published detailed guidance on how each subject will be assessed with a lot more scope available to candidates.

The arrangements vary between subjects but examples include expanding question choice from three to five options, no longer mandating that a certain question is compulsory or giving more time for project completion.

For instance, in Leaving Cert Higher Level English, candidates will be given a choice of five rather than four poets in the Prescribed Poetry question.

To the great relief of Leaving Cert maths students at all levels, who usually have to answer all questions, limited choice is being introduced.

Changes for third years include dropping of the requirement to complete the assessment task for particular subjects.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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