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Senator urges Minister Foley to publish school bus review

February 15th, 2024 10:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

Senator urges Minister Foley to publish school bus review Image
Sen Lombard says West Cork has a major taxi shortage.

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A WEST Cork Fine Gael Senator has called on Education Minister Norma Foley to ensure that a new fit-for-purpose school transport scheme is in place by April 20th to avoid more school bus chaos this year.

Sen Tim Lombard, who has been calling for the complete overhaul of a scheme which has been in place since the 1970s, said the long-awaited review of the scheme is now complete. He said it is incumbent on Minister Foley to act swiftly so both pupils and parents can be assured that they will be properly provided for during the 2024/2025 academic year.

For the past number of years families across West Cork found themselves at the mercy of the scheme, with many forced to drive their children to school behind the school bus on a daily basis.

Last summer, The Southern Star highlighted the situation facing over 30 students from the Ballinhassig area attending school in Kinsale, who were left without school bus tickets at the start of the school term.

All the affected students were ‘concessionary’ bus ticket holders – they were told by Bus Éireann that schools in Carrigaline, Rochestown and Bishopstown are nearer to them than their chosen school at Kinsale Community School.

An extra bus was eventually provided two months into the school term but it meant that parents had to drive their children in and out of Kinsale every day for almost two months.

Meanwhile, students from the Ardfield area attending secondary school in Rosscarbery were also refused school bus tickets, despite qualifying for Tams (temporary alleviation measures).

‘This review has been completed and looks favourably on the scheme’s merits, specifically with regard to rural connectivity, supporting the labour market and working parents, climate action, and fostering life skills for children,’ said Sen Lombard.

‘While this is positive, it’s still unacceptable that the findings of this report have yet to be released. The introduction of Tams means that transport will be provided, where such services are in operation, for post-primary pupils who are eligible for transport to their nearest school and are attending their second nearest school and who apply and pay on time.’

However, he said the reality for many parents is that this measure is not applied on all routes.

‘There are families in West Cork today who still do not have school transport for this school year despite meeting the Tams criteria. Overall we’ve seen significant difficulties with the scheme over the past year in particularly, including driver shortages. While close to 130,000 tickets were issued for this year, this means nothing if the transport is not actually there when it’s needed.’

Sen Lombard said that in the absence of the report being published and without seeing recommendations, it’s impossible to predict the future viability of the School Transport Scheme.

‘Applications for the scheme for next year close this April 20th and that gives Minister Foley three months to publish the report and have a longterm plan in place for next year and beyond.’

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