A CAMPAIGN to stop cuts to primary school buses in rural areas is “only just beginning” according to activists who have mobilised up to 600 parents from schools across Munster.
Parents in the Kerry region said a meeting in Listowel on Monday was just the start of what would turn into a national campaign to halt the erosion of the social fabric of rural life.
Sean O’Sullivan from Tuosist, near Kenmare, said 60% of pupils at Realt na Mara national school would be affected by cutting bus routes.
He said some children had to travel up to 10 miles to get to school because of smaller schools being amalgamated in the past. Mr O’Sullivan said if children from the parish could no longer go to the school it would “devastate” the social fabric of the area.
Currently, under the closed school rule which governs a child’s eligibility to school transport there must be seven children living over a mile from the school to provide a bus service to the school. However, new criteria states that from September there must be a minimum of 10 children living over two miles from the school to maintain a bus service. This means numerous bus routes throughout the country will be axed. Also, many primary school pupils who had a free bus service up to now will be charged a minimum of €50 from September.
Rachel Fitzgerald, who started the campaign, said some families have no cars and many more have just one car which is being used by the working parent.
“Some parents will have to either reduce working hours or cease employment completely in order to get their children to school each day,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said that unfortunately the issue of a €50 fee is being focused on when this was not what was really going to affect people.
“We believe this is a unfair representation and totally missing the point. While it is a fact that this fantastic service has been delivered free of charge, from September there will be a charge to families of €50 per child up to a total of €110 per family where the family is over two miles from the school. Families living under the two miles from the school are clearly being discriminated against we believe as they will be charged €200 per child up to a max of €400 per family for the same service where one exists,” she said.
Monday night’s meeting in Listowel was attended by parents from Kerry Waterford, Cork and Limerick. Jerry Mullins CEO of the Coach and Tourism Transport Council said between € 8 and € 12 million could be saved within the system itself without cutting primary school bus services.
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