– Dept of Education not planning to change eligibility criteria for School Transport Scheme –
Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher says he’s extremely disappointed that the Junior Education Minister has rowed back on a commitment to ensure that no student who had a seat on the School Transport Scheme last year would be refused one this term.
A Department of Education review into the scheme has proposed no changes to the School Transport Scheme, despite a huge demand for extra places and a promise from Minister John Halligan that no student would lose a seat.
Senator Gallagher commented, “Only last June, during a debate in the Dáil Minister John Halligan told our Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne that he would “guarantee that no student will lose a seat on the school bus during this term”. Despite this “guarantee”, I have been contacted by parents whose children were granted a concessionary seat on the school bus last year but have lost out this year.
“I am extremely worried that this situation will deteriorate further now that the review of the School Transport Scheme has proposed no changes. This could see more children losing their bus pass over the coming months. School bus places were already reduced at the beginning of this school term, and now it looks as if more passes could be lost.
“The manner in which the review was carried out also begs questions. The review group only had two meetings – one to obtain a summary of the scheme from the Department and another which ended up being a forum to swap contact details with Bus Éireann. This could hardly be described as intensive or conclusive.
“The School Transport Scheme needs to be overhauled to ensure that students who need a place on their school bus route can secure one, without having to go through the worry and anxiety of the current system. The lack of progress made by Minister Halligan in this area to date is deeply troubling,” concluded Senator Gallagher.