Thursday, 12 May 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
53. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools that will be affected from September 2011 in County Donegal in relation to the closed schools rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11015/11]
54. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the changed school transport system arsing form the review of value for money for school transport will greatly reduce the number of pupils attending some schools (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11016/11]
The changes to school transport services were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from a recommendation in the Value for Money Review of the scheme.
It is important to stress that there are a number of dimensions to the cessation of the Closed School Rule. The first of these, which will be implemented from September 2011, involves the uniform application of the distance criterion to all pupils travelling under the primary transport scheme, including those travelling under the closed school rule. This means that children residing less than 3.2 kilometres from the school of amalgamation will be deemed ineligible for school transport. In such cases, these children may apply for concessionary transport.
The second element of the change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date, who meet the distance eligibility criterion and are travelling to their nearest school. Available statistics, based on sampling undertaken as part of the Value for Money Review, indicate that the impact of this change will be limited as the majority of pupils categorised under the closed school rule are in fact attending their nearest school and will not be affected by this change.
Before implementing this second main change which is proposed for 2012, my Department has requested Bus Éireann to conduct a detailed analysis of the “on the ground” impact for individual schools and the rural communities they serve, including County Donegal. This analysis will be based on the most up to date information available on current school transport usage patterns and I expect to have this information available to me this summer.
I will then have an opportunity to carefully examine the likely affects of this change well in advance of the 2012 implementation date. Given the major financial constraints facing the country, I regret that I cannot reverse the changes to school transport as announced by the previous Government. We all have to understand the legacy of economic mismanagement which the last Government gave to the country.
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