The review of the School Transport Scheme must be published without further delay, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Tim Lombard said that the Department of Education needs to publish the details of its review on the eligibility, trends, costs, and the overall effectiveness of the system, amidst ongoing chaos around school transport as the school year begins.
“It’s hard to believe that another school year has just started and still we haven’t seen this review,” Senator Lombard stated.
“A review of the School Transport Scheme began in February 2021 and an interim report was published in June the same year. This saw the introduction of temporary alleviation measures to provide transport arrangements for post-primary students. Unfortunately, the experience of families that I’m dealing with is that these alleviation measures aren’t applied in practice.
“Minister Norma Foley has said final phases would be completed soon, but there have been no updates on this urgent review since. Where is the report?
“How can real changes be made when the true extent of the issue has not yet been made clear? It is completely unacceptable to be waiting over 2 years for this report when the issue is so urgent for families.
“The current Post Primary School Transport Scheme is based on a document published in 2012. What may have been a suitable scheme 11 years ago may not be the best option now and a new plan is needed to deal with these new concerns.
“We’ve seen significant issues in the last few weeks with school transport, including driver shortages. Whilst close to 130,000 tickets have been issued, this means nothing if the transport is not actually there when its needed.
“I’ve previously called on Bus Éireann to allow drivers over 70 to continue in their roles after passing an annual medical examination. This has been dismissed as an option by Bus Éireann, yet no alternatives are being put forward by the company or the Department.
“School transport has been the single biggest issue for parents contacting my office over the last month and yet there seems to be no sense of urgency in addressing these issues from the Minister.
“I’m calling on the Minister for Education, the Minister for Transport and Bus Éireann to come together to publish the report immediately so that the concerns of worried parents can be addressed and a plan that’s fit-for-purpose can be devised.
“The Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, who is also responsible for Environment and Climate, also has an opportunity here to be innovative in moving towards the 20% reduction in car journeys target outlined in CAP 23. Putting more school children on buses takes more cars off the road – it’s that simple.
“A bit of joined up thinking here in relation to the school transport scheme would be a significant step in helping us achieve that target and would remove the uncertainty and hassle around concessionary school transport places for families,” concluded Senator Lombard.