Review of School Transport Scheme must not be used as an excuse to introduce cutbacks – BREEN.

January 22nd, 2009 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen T.D. reacting to the news that the Minister for Education and Science is undertake a review of the School transport Scheme said that “any such review must not be used as an excuse to introduce further cutbacks”.   Deputy Breen went on to say that while a “review of the catchment boundaries is welcome” that this review must take cognisance of the “Geographical infrastructure of County Clare, the changes in the residential settlement patterns which have occurred since the scheme was first introduced and the anomalies in the current system which are very frustrating for parents and their children.”

“It is estimated that the School Transport Scheme costs approximately €200m per year to run.   This cost has been borne by many cash-strapped families here in County Clare who have had to fork out an extra 70% in School Transport Charges in 2008 alone”.

“In order to qualify for school transport, a child must be living more that 3.2 Kilometres from the nearest School in the case of primary students and 4.8 Kilometres in the case of post primary schools.   The cost for a primary student is €40 per term while students attending post primary up to Junior Certificate Level pay €56 per term with Transition Year and Leaving Certificate Students paying €78 per term.   It was announced in Budget 2009 that the transport charge is increasing to a singe annual fee of €300 per student which is first payable in summer 2009.  The maximum amount for a family will be €650 annually.”

“Many families are now facing financial difficulties as they struggle with trying to meet the costs of sending their children to school and they cannot afford to have further costs imposed upon them.”

A review of the Catchment Boundaries is welcome if its purpose is to address the current anomalies in the School Transport Scheme which was first introduced in 1967.” 

“For example, if a student resides within a Catchment Area of a School which may be overcrowded or where a student does not meet the qualifying criteria for acceptance to that School, as a result through no fault of their own they have to travel to a School outside of their catchement area, they do not qualify under the present Scheme.”

“Students who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary School in their Catchment area may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary School outside of their own Catchment Area, however, very often when they try to take up this option they are not facilitated because the quota of tickets have been taken up and yet the children and their parents can see the bus passing their house each morning with vacant seats.”

“Any review of the School Transport School must take congnisance of these anomalies.  It must also take into account of the geographical infrastructure of County Clare and it must reflect the changes which have taken place in the residential settlement patterns since the scheme was first introduced.”

“Any review of the School Transport Scheme must not be used as an excuse to introduce further cutbacks which would place an unfair burden on families who are already struggling with the costs of sending their children to School.”