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School Transport Review will result in positive changes for rural students and families – Dolan

27th February 2024 - Aisling Dolan

Changes recommended in a review of the School Transport scheme will result in positive changes for rural students and their families, according to Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan.

Senator Aisling Dolan, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson for Education, Further and Higher Education, said the focus must now be on incentivising drivers and bus contractors to join the programme, which is managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education

Senator Aisling Dolan, who has consistently highlighted difficulties rural students have had in securing transport to school, said: “The School Transport review recommendations are extremely welcome for school-going families across the country.

“I have consistently requested the expedition of this review, especially as we see so many challenges in rural areas to accommodate working families who have no other options but school transport to bring their children to school.”

Senator Dolan was among a number of Fine Gael Senators who brought forward a Private Members Motion calling for extra capacity to be made available so that all families who have submitted applications could avail of the scheme.

“In the Seanad, I proposed together with our Fine Gael members, an increased budget for over 160,000 pupils and to remove the restrictive criteria where students must reside a certain distance from their nearest school. I had a particular focus on rural areas as well as safety at our schools with school bus drop-offs reducing car journeys on dangerous country roads.

“Today is a landmark day for the School Transport system in Ireland and with additional budget allocated, we will ensure more families will have the choice of school transport especially in rural areas.

“This is essential for so many working parents who may travel long distances to work and struggle to manage the school drop-offs and pick-ups and depend on a network of grand-parents and neighbours.

“We know how dangerous our country roads can be with speeding at all times of the day and it is a real concern for so many rural schools trying to manage cars dropping off children and collecting them.

“This investment in school transport reduces car journeys on our roads and makes access to school safer for children.  The removal of the nearest school criteria now gives parents and pupils choice.

“The reduction in distance to 2 kilometres for primary and post-primary schools in rural areas where there is no other choice of transport will be a huge support to working parents who struggle to travel to work as well as doing school pick up & drop-offs. And the intention is to reduce that to 1 km for primary schools in the next phase. Our schools will become safer places with a reduction in car journeys especially during hectic school pick-up & drop-offs.

“These recommended changes will be introduced in phases and for parents who currently have children taking the school bus, all existing routes will be maintained. The widening of the eligibility to include more children is welcome.

“The term concessionary has been frustrating and confusing for families. l People who have applied for school transport will now be offered spare seats when eligible students are accommodated.

“The challenges I see on the ground in Galway and Roscommon are how to get drivers and contractors.

“We need to ensure Bus Éireann contracts will appeal to private contractors to join and invest in this programme. Another focus is to encourage part-time flexible career options for men and women to perhaps consider coming back into the workforce and becoming a bus driver in their local area.”


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