Protest last year: Parents, children and supporters on the road as their protest march arrives in Ballyhale. PICTURE: HARRY REID
Fianna Fáil TD for Kilkenny, Bobby Aylward, has said there must be greater certainty for children with school transport concessionary seats.
The issue caused massive distress for families here last year. Deputy Aylward said it was important for the Minister to ensure the school transport system for the 2019/20 academic year is not as chaotic as past years and does not lead to the same amount of anxiety for hundreds of families.
As it stands concessionary seats are given to children who are not automatically eligible for school transport but meet certain requirements. The concessionary seats can be rescinded depending on capacity, which causes huge stress for families as one sibling may be able to travel while a younger one can’t.
"Fianna Fáil have been calling for a guarantee to be introduced to ensure no child loses their place on a school bus if they had been allocated a concessionary seat in either junior infants or first year of secondary school," said Deputy Aylward.
“It makes sense that once a school bus place is allocated at the start of the child's time at school, even on a concessionary basis, it should be guaranteed for future years.
“No child or parent should have to go through the ridiculous annual ordeal of waiting to hear whether or not they have retained their place on the school bus. Often parents are not told whether their child can keep a school bus place until the first week back at school and predictably, chaos ensues. The Government can put an end to this administrative nightmare once and for all by introducing a guarantee ensuring that children cannot lose a school bus place once one has been allocated to them.
"The Department of Education cannot continue to ignore the very obvious problems within the current rules of the School Transport Scheme, particularly those which determine the circulation of concessionary tickets. These problems are very solvable and would not cost a fortune to rectify but there has been absolutely no appetite from Government in the last number of years in providing the necessary funding to deal with these problems.
"Minister Halligan needs to meet with Minister Joe McHugh in advance of Budget 2020 to discuss an increase in the provision of funding for School Transport which may solve the many problems associated with the scheme which are causing havoc for young school children and their parents every year, particularly in rural areas.”