Additional funding is urgently required to provide additional school bus places for students who have been unable to avail of the scheme this year, according to Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan.
Senator Dolan is among a number of Fine Gael Senators bringing forward a Private Members Motion in the Seanad calling for extra capacity to be made available so that all families who have submitted applications can avail of the School Transport Scheme.
Senator Dolan, Fine Gael’s Seanad Spokesperson on Education, Science & Innovation, said: “Parents guardians are rightly frustrated that their children have been left without a school place as they may narrowly miss out on the criteria set by the Department of Education and rely on concessionary tickets.
The waiving of fees is most welcome to reduce cost of living pressures on families, but some students have missed out due a to shortage of capacity and there have also been delays in issuing tickets due to higher numbers qualifying for the service.
In my constituency, there is a major issue for families who have no way to bring children to secondary schools in Ballinasloe, Mountbellew, Ballygar, Athlone, and it seems secondary school students particularly in rural areas are affected by the shortfall.
I have had several meetings with parents who are angry and frustrated and now face additional costs and pressure to find their own means of getting their children to school safely. They have had to give up jobs extra costs and more stress for parents and children.
I welcome Minister Foley’s comments that she will seek additional funding to help the cohort of students reliant on concessionary bus tickets. We need to work with Bus Éireann and private contractors to increase services in areas where there is already full capacity on buses.
We need to know what the additional cost is for the estimated 6,000 students and we need a commitment that the budget will be allocated to students going to school this year.
Increasing public transport options reduces thousands of car journeys each day with a follow on impact on mitigating cost of living and environment through reducing air pollution and emissions. It will also make our roads safer especially at busy country roads at pick-up and drop-off times.