To celebrate 50 years of the school run, Transition Year students are urged to get creative, says
On his 13-mile round trip to the schools of Ballincollig, bus driver Con Cronin shepherds over 100 local children to their educational hubs each day. In his 17 years driving the school bus, Con says that life on board hasn’t changed too much.
“Children will always be children,” he says. “They might have iPhones and headphones, but their innocence is the same.”
It is 50 years since Bus Éireann began operating the School Transport Scheme in Ireland.
Every school day, around 115,000 Irish children from 3,000 schools across the country board a bus to bring them to and from school on 4,500 vehicles over 6,500 routes.
The scheme supports 7,500 jobs and is a huge source of pride for the company to maintain, says Nicola Cooke of Bus Éireann.
“At Bus Éireann, making better connections is important to us,” she says. “We are the leading provider of public transport outside Dublin, and our buses travel on 275 routes all over the country on our public service and Expressway routes.”
An integral part of communities, particularly in rural areas, the school bus driver offers parents a safe environment in which to transport their children, when work and other commitments would otherwise make it a struggle.
Con says watching the children he brings to school grow up is one of the great pleasures of his job.
“It’s a lovely job, a responsible job too,” he maintains. “I have great banter with the kids on my route and these days it’s lovely to meet kids that I would have brought to primary school who are now qualified as engineers or something as successful.”
Acting as the first port of call to these children is one that he takes seriously. Con begins his route at 7.30am, collecting children along the way from his home in Macroom to the schools of Ballincollig.
Every morning across Cork, 231 people work across 881 routes in the county to make sure that kids get to school on time. The service is not just beneficial to the children.
“It gets traffic off the road for everyone who is trying to commute to work. That’s a huge help, I think,” says Con.
To celebrate half a century on the school run, Bus Éireann has launched Go Places with Bus Éireann, a competition for Transition Year students, where they are invited to get creative about their journey to school.
The students have been asked to document their journey to school in video, photo or written format to capture the highlights in a creative and innovative way. It’s a chance for students to flex their creative muscles, says Nicola Cooke.
“We want them to get creative in capturing their journey and the connections and memories they make on it — who they chat with, what they do, what landmarks they pass by in their community every day. Entries can be made in video, photographs or essay format and the more creative, the better!”
The daily trip to school for 2FM’s Blaithnaid Treacy was one of her fondest memories. Living in Bray, Treacy caught the bus to Stillorgan in South Dublin every school morning, racking up a journey of almost 45 minutes each way.
“I used to be up at the crack of dawn make my school journey every day,” she explains. “During the cold winter months I remember walking down the road on dark mornings and seeing the bus like a beacon of light coming towards me!”
The bus offered a social refuge for Treacy and her friends, a place to catch up on gossip, and for the burgeoning media star, an opportunity to check out the latest music.
“That half an hour on the bus with my friends every morning set the tone for the day,” she says.
“Initially, everyone would grunt at each other because we hadn’t quite woken up, but we’d soon be sharing music and talking about what boys we fancied! I will always remember sharing headphones and swapping music and making playlists to get ready for the disco with — it was a really fun journey to take every morning!”
Transition Year is a time to find yourself and to start your own ‘journey’ towards the adult you, says the television and radio personality, making it an ideal fit for this competition.
“Transition Year is a fantastic time where you get to do loads of creative things,” she says.
“I would have been more creative than academic so fourth year was a time for me to shine and really start to explore who I was and was going to become. It’s a great time for confidence building because it’s not all about concentrating on exams.”
Treacy advises TY students to make the most of this year out, and to try to investigate the sides of themselves that the traditional curriculum doesn’t showcase. “Go on the trips, take part in the plays — you won’t be in this position again, so throw yourself into all of the activities that are on offer.”
RTÉ presenter Stephen Byrne says that fourth year changed his life. “Transition Year for me was exactly that, a major transition into finding out what I actually enjoyed doing,” he explains.
“Without having that year to do that I don’t know where I would be in life. It gave me time to learn skills like video editing and camera work that then led to me creating my first YouTube video. That’s what led me on the path to starting work in RTÉ a year later.”
Byrne’s childhood saw him moving from Dublin to Melbourne in Australia and back again, and he experienced lots of different kinds of school run. “One journey that sticks out for me has to be during the first few years of secondary school,” he says.
“Every morning I would pass by a man who would be sitting in his kitchen and we’d wave at each other. We never spoke and I didn’t find out his name, but it always stands out in my mind that we had that simple exchange, and I’ll always remember it.”
Byrne reckons that the journey to school has such a lasting impact on us right up to adulthood, because it is a repetitive act in the middle of a childhood that has lots of ups and downs, experiences and awakenings.
“You might have had a good day, you come racing home on that same stretch of path, or the day didn’t suit you and you’re still strolling down the same footpath. Its lovely sometimes as an adult to go for a walk or cycle in the same direction — you can’t beat that nostalgia.”
Go Places with Bus Éireann is open to all TY students from across the Republic of Ireland.
Entries can be submitted in either a video of two minutes or less, a collection of 20 photographs or an essay of 1,000 words or less. Deadline for entries is March 16, 2018.
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