More than 2,000 children are either still waiting to see if they have a seat on a school bus for the new term, or have just learned that their application was unsuccessful.
Bus Éireann confirmed the figures amid criticism that, as schools reopen after the summer, some parents received just one week’s notice that their application for transport had been refused.
While children are eligible if attending their nearest school and satisfy the distance criteria, those who do not go to their closest school can apply for transport on a concessionary basis only.
However, Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock said that, in many cases, parents put their children on waiting lists for a number of schools and some are not given a place in their nearest school. Mr Sherlock said he was contacted by parents who were told this week that an application for a concessionary bus place was unsuccessful — despite paying for the service last April.
“Nothing has been done to improve the school transport apartheid that pervades rural Ireland,” said Mr Sherlock. “Because of Government policy, we have Bus Éireann caught in a trap of dictating to parents where they should send their children to school, based on distance.”
He accused junior minister John Halligan of “coasting through his ministerial term” and said he “has delivered absolutely nothing on this issue”.
“For the minister to sit on his hands and expect Bus Éireann to change tack without ministerial direction is madness,” said Mr Sherlock. “The end result is parents and families left in limbo with no alternatives available before the first day of school next week.
“Bus Éireann need to put on second buses in the interim, that are already paid for by parents, while the minister issues a new directive to take account of parents’ concerns.”
A Bus Éireann spokesperson said it is still processing applications and late payments continue to be received.
“To date in 2017, there are 25,345 applicants for concessionary school transport who have applied and paid for concessionary transport. Of these 23,275 have received tickets though, as stated previously, tickets are currently issuing for places as late payments continue to be received, and every effort will be made to accommodate more concessionary applicants where capacity allows.”
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