Jennifer Whitmore TD

Fundamental problems with how the School Transport Scheme operates must be resolved before eligibility is expanded, according to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on children, said:

“I welcome plans due to come before Cabinet today to reduce the pick-up radius to 2km for both primary and secondary school students wishing to secure a place on a bus.

“Subject to funding being available, there are proposals to further reduce this distance to allow even more children to become eligible for the scheme – something that will benefit thousands of families around the country.

“While this all sounds great in theory, it must be remembered that there are still children waiting on a promised school bus service for the term that commenced last August. Given that the new rules won’t kick in for the 2024/25 school year, it is clear that difficulties with the scheme – including driver and bus shortages – remain.

“Any expansion of the School Transport Scheme must be rolled out in tandem with a major overhaul of the system. I have been calling for a complete restructuring of the scheme, including the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Education to the Department of Transport.

“There must also be an immediate recruitment campaign to attract more drivers in rural areas.

“We need to see a school bus scheme that offers a genuinely national service, where families are not reliant on a postcode lottery depending on where they live.

“It is worth noting that the measures announced today won’t be in place during the lifetime of this Government. This will be of little help to parents and children as the next school term begins in the autumn.”

February 27, 2024

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