Children are only eligible for school transport if they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school
Carlow parents made just over 770 applications for concessionary seating on buses to take their children to school with only 12 seats available in the county, new figures have revealed.
Concessionary seats are allocated on school bus routes but if there is greater demand for seats from students closer to a particular school then the more eligible students get the seats.
In general, children are eligible for school transport if they are attending their nearest school and satisfy the requisite distance criteria. Those not eligible may avail of concessionary transport, at a cost — but only if there’s spare capacity.
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, John Halligan, confirmed that the figures for concessionary school transport for the 2017/18 school year in Carlow saw 772 applications with 624 tickets issued and 12 seats available.
Speaking earlier this year, the Minister said: "School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
"Currently over 116,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017."
Under the terms of the Department’s Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are only eligible for school transport if they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school.
School transport provision is made available to all eligible children. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only which is subject to a number of conditions including the availability of spare seats on an existing service and payment of the annual charge.
Minister Halligan added: "The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.
"Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.
"Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only which is subject to a number of conditions including the availability of spare seats on an existing service and payment of the annual charge.
"Arising from commitments in the Programme for Government, a review of the Concessionary Charges and Rules element of the School Transport Scheme was undertaken."
The review was published in December 2016 and made recommendations on both the charges and the rules element of concessionary school transport.
With regard to the charges for concessionary school transport the recommended course of action was to continue with the current position whereby charges remain in place for those in receipt of concessionary places.
He said: "I agreed with this recommendation on the basis that those applying for concessionary transport are making a conscious decision to do so, understand that they are not eligible for school transport and understand the implications of this choice at the time of application.
"The report also recommended that the number of concessionary places should be reduced in line with the rules introduced in 2012 on a phased basis. Previous plans to advance this option were put on hold, pending the completion of the review.
"However upon consideration of the review and following discussions with the Cross Party Working Group which I established to feed into the review, I decided that there should be no planned programme of downsizing in the coming year except in line with normal operational decisions within the current scheme.
"The terms of the School Transport Scheme are applied equitably on a national basis."