THE parents of an eight-year-old girl with Down Syndrome have welcomed the decision by Bus Éireann to allow their daughter travel on the school bus, after being told the day before school started that she couldn’t travel because she didn’t have an escort.
However, they are now calling for further written clarity from Bus Éireann to find out why it happened in the first place.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Cathal Gilbert said both he and his wife Méabh, who live in Cloughgriffin, were delighted to get the news from Bus Éireann on Wednesday that their daughter, who they feel does not need an escort, will be able to travel on the school bus for the entire year.
‘This is great news and we have requested confirmation that she can travel unaccompanied. But we’ve also asked a series of other questions to get to the bottom of what happened,’ said Cathal. ‘We want to thank everyone who made calls and supported us.’
The Gilberts were faced with a difficult situation on Tuesday evening – the day before their daughter was due to go back to Timoleague National School – when they received a call from Bus Éireann to say that she was unable to take her place on the school bus because there was no escort available.
This was despite her bus ticket being issued a month ago through the mainstream school transport system.
Thankfully, early on Wednesday morning they received a call from Bus Éireann to say that their daughter would be able to travel.
A spokesperson for Bus Éireann said that all students on the Timoleague to Barryroe service had applied through the mainstream school transport system.
‘Students who require extra assistance can apply via the Department of Education and Skills School Transport Scheme for children with special educational needs.’
But the Gilberts say they applied through the mainstream system as they didn’t feel their daughter didn’t need an escort.
Kinsale Executive Travel, who are contracted to provide school transport services on the Timoleague to Barryroe route, said that they received no formal notification from Bus Éireann that any child or children with special needs would be using their service to travel to Timoleague this term.
‘Kinsale Travel has never raised an objection to a child or adult with special needs on any bus service provided,’ said a spokesperson.
Local TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said she was delighted to hear that there is now a verbal agreement in place, but that it was a ‘cruel thing to have happened.’
‘The lesson going forward is that an issue like this should never come down to the wire the day before school starts,’ said Deputy Murphy O’Mahony.