Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe claimed there is very little seasonal joy to be found in a School Transport Review published this week.
The Sinn Féin TD was speaking after meeting a delegation of parents from across Ireland who had gathered outside Leinster House to highlight their children’s difficulties in accessing School transport.
Crowe challenged the Minister of State with Responsibility for School Transport, John Halligan, to address the fall-out facing students following his review and said that it will now leave thousands without a safe route to and from school.
Almost 7,000 have applicants have been refused a seat on school transport.
In Dublin alone 307 primary students applied but only 175 were issued a seat.
At secondary school level the rate of refusal was higher, with 210 applying and only 69 getting a positive response.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“I have been made aware of a number of cases in recent months where students who were previously in receipt of school transport have been told that they cannot now access the buses as there is no room.
“Across the state almost 7000 children who applied for school transport were refused a seat, despite the contrary claims from the Minister that no child would lose his or her seat while his review was being carried out.
“While the nearest school rule introduced by Fianna Fail and implemented by Fine Gael and Labour may, on the face of it, appears to be an efficient arrangement, it is in fact a restrictive measure that simply does not work in practice.
“Minister Halligan’s promised review will change nothing and will leave parents facing the enormous challenges, as before, in how to get their children to school.”
Deputy Crowe pointed out that almost 20% of all students availing of school transport do so on a concessionary basis and as a result of this policy these same students are extremely vulnerable to losing their service. Many children who attend the same school as their siblings and neighbours or who cannot access their nearest school will lose out on school transport.
“In some cases, students who have attended a particular school for the last number of years are now being advised to attend a different school, or in extreme cases, a school that is not even in their county.
“It is estimated it would cost €7 million to provide every child with a school bus seat. This is a small amount in overall government spending and it needs to be prioritised. This problem is not likely to go away and in fact is likely to get worse in future years as demands for school bus seats increase.
“In our alternative budget, Sinn Féin provided for a €7 million investment in our proposals for school transport scheme.
“Families should not have to rely on the whims of Government in order to get their child to school.If we are serious about bringing about a safe and inclusive school experience then the idea of a child being denied a seat is repugnant and needs to be addressed. The government’s review was supposed to address just that and it hasn’t delivered.
“I intend to raise this issue with the Minister for Education and Skills in the Dáil and I will continue to fight to ensure that children can avail of school transport in order to facilitate their access and right to an education.”