Deputy Niamh Smyth welcomed the review into the School Transport Scheme.

100,000 more children to benefit from School Transport Scheme by 2030

REPORT Coach Tourism and Transport Council welcome review but express concern over capacity

A review of the School Transport Scheme has recommended expanding access to the scheme. That would see an additional 100,000 pupils being carried to school using the school transport scheme by 2030. Currently around 161,000 pupils are benefitting from the scheme.

The review also recommends significantly broadening eligibility criteria for the scheme by eliminating the requirement for students to attend their “nearest school” and also reducing the distance that a student must live from school from 4.8km to 2km at post-primary and from 3.2 km to 1km at primary.

The plans to overhaul the scheme were launched by Minister for Education Norma Foley.

“I welcome the recommendations contained in this long-awaited report," said local Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth. "The School Transport 2030 review is going to allow almost 100,000 more pupils to use it by 2030, bringing the total to about 260,000 students.

“The significant broadening of the eligibility criteria will allow more families apply for the scheme. This is a vital scheme for families, particularly in rural Ireland.

“Some 77% of the 6,298 parents surveyed for the review said that they rely on the School Transport Scheme in order to attend work. This shows how important this scheme is for families. We also know what a huge part it plays in supporting rural connectivity and tackling rural deprivation.”

She added she was heartened that Minister Foley confirmation that the charges for the school transport scheme will remain at the same reduced rates for the upcoming 2024 / 2025 school year.

“The fee for a primary school child is €50 and for a post- primary school child is €75. The maximum fee for a family is €125. This is excellent value considering the actual cost to provide transport is €1,100 per child on mainstream transport per school year.”

Deputy Smyth added that Fianna Fáil in Government is committed to working to achieve the report’s recommendation of expanding access to the scheme.

A series of changes recommended by the review will take effect on a phased basis from this September. These include new pilot projects involving post-primary pupils travelling to school on public bus routes, as well as reduced distance criteria.

There will be an increase in the special transport grant, which goes to families who prefer to provide their own transport for their children with special educational needs or where there isn’t a service available.

Many aspects of the report were welcomed by the he Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC), however they expressed fears that the capacity of the system, as it stands, cannot cater for the expected future demand

“Commercial Bus Operators provide over 90% of school transport routes in the state and we are calling for a working group to be established now to include all stakeholders to ensure the planned expansion of the system is fit for purpose, for families, students and operators alike," said Mr Barton of the CTTC. "Commercial operators stand ready to help ensure the system works, however, to date, our suggestions have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears".