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Minister Foley has yet to decide areas for new school transport scheme

March 29th, 2024 7:00 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Minister Foley has yet to decide areas for new school transport scheme Image

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A PILOT scheme to deal with issues relating to school transport will be rolled out in September but Education Minister Norma Foley can’t say if West Cork will be selected for the scheme.

Minister Foley visited Belgooly recently for the opening of a new extension at Scoil Mhuire na nGrást.

Last month, the Department of Education published the School Transport Scheme 2030 report, the largest review of the scheme since it was established in 1967.

It recommends removing the requirement for students to attend their nearest school, which will give parents greater choice and flexibility. It also recommends reducing the distances required for students to qualify for the scheme, and recommends phasing in the changes by September 2025.

Two pilot schemes will be introduced this September involving the reduced distance criteria and also looking at secondary school students using public bus routes.

Speaking to The Southern Star, Minister Foley said that the work of the pilot scheme is ongoing.

‘We will have to look at many factors and see where best it is suited. Every area I imagine would like to be part of the pilot but we will accommodate as much as we can but at the moment, it’s just an ongoing process,’ said Minister Foley.

She also said Bus Éireann operates a policy of not employing bus drivers over the age of 70, which has in turn reduced the pool of available drivers.

‘It is my understanding that there will be a review specifically around the question of those aged over 70 and that will be by the Department of Transport. I appreciate the challenges in finding bus drivers and it’s not unique to the transport industry. There are campaigns to attract female bus drivers also and the Department of Enterprise is looking at the question of visas and bringing people in.’

Cork Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has previously said that West Cork should be used in the pilot scheme given the vast geography of the area and the fact it  had ‘black spots’ in relation to school transport in recent years.

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