Following news that 30 Offaly children are without school bus places, Minister Pippa Hackett is exploring solutions with Bus Eireann and the Department of Education.
“This creates a huge logistical challenge for parents,” says Minister Hackett. “We must also consider the environmental effects of all these extra cars on our roads.”
Parents from Cloneygowan, Geashill, Killyon, Ballinabrackery, Kilcormac, and Birr have contacted the Minister’s office, along with three school principals.
With school transport operating at 50% capacity, Minister Hackett has spoken to Education Minister Norma Foley urging a return to full capacity as soon as possible. Public transport returns to full capacity today.
“I have also written to Bus Éireann,” she says “I am exploring the possibility of additional buses on the routes.”
Minister Hackett’s office contacted every secondary school in Offaly and Laois this week to ascertain the extent of the problem.
Under the School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest education centre. Children who are not eligible, may apply to Bus Éireann on a concessionary basis.
However, the requirement to operate at 50% capacity has limited the number of concessionary places available.
One parent, who had paid the full amount for two tickets in July, told Minister Hackett’s office that in four years, they never had an issue with places on the bus, and they were accommodated on an extra bus last year.
However, late last week they found out that their children would not receive a place this year.
“The parents have been very proactive about finding a solution and some have contacted a private bus company who are willing to offer a service from Cloneygowan to Tullamore,” says Minister Hackett.
“However, this would cost €35 per child per week, which is well over the cost of the Bus Eireann ticket. We have to do something to assist these parents in getting their children to school.”