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Adjournment Debate. - School Transport.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin Once again I find myself raising an example of inadequacies in the approach to education. Tonight, I raise the need to provide additional school transport for pupils who attend Boheshill National School in Glencar, County Kerry.

The Minister of State may not be aware that another national school in the area, Bunglash National School, was closed and that left a number of pupils with no option but to attend Boheshill National School, which is quite a distance from their homes. When the Bunglash school closed, however, no replacement bus service was provided to ferry the pupils to their new school. The excuse given by the Department of Education and Science for the failure to provide a replacement bus service was that because Bunglash National School was closed rather than amalgamated with Boheshill National School, pupils of Bunglash were not to be provided with transport to their new school.

There is one pupil who walks a mile and a half to the school bus pick-up point every day, often in very bad weather, and then she has to travel a further seven miles on the bus. This is an unacceptable and unnecessary imposition on this young child. The road she walks is very dangerous and remote. In the winter many of the houses are unoccupied and the parents are concerned about the safety of their children. There are other five year olds due to start in September and it is unacceptable that they should have to walk this road to the bus pick-up point.

The location of the pick-up point for these students is very dangerous. It is at the bottom of a hill on an extremely narrow road. The parents of these children want the Department to examine the possibility of providing a school bus from the old closed school. There is a suitable turning circle there that would facilitate the bus. From my dealings with the Department of Education and Science over the years, I understand that when an amalgamation takes place, there are negotiations with regard to the continuation of a bus service. In this case, however, because the school was closed, it did not happen.

I will not labour the point but I ask the Minister of State to ask a Department official to meet the parents of these young children to see if the situation could be examined. We have until September but the parents have asked me to raise the issue tonight so there will be time for negotiations with the Department of Education and Science.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Mr. O'Dea): Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The position generally is that the school transport scheme was established to cater for children in rural areas who, if living a long distance from school, might otherwise have difficulty in attending school regularly. There are approximately 131,000 primary and post-primary pupils using the school transport scheme on a regular basis.

The scheme is administered by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. There are almost 3,000 vehicles, including spares, used to provide the service, covering 5,600 routes. All routes are examined with regard to the suitability of roads for the various types of vehicles used. Safe set-down, turning and pick-up points are carefully selected, always with safety in mind. Bus Éireann has a very good safety record in the operation of school transport and an ongoing commitment to highlight safety in this regard.

In this case the main difficulty relates to transport from the Bunglash school area to Boheshill National School. The Bunglash school closed with effect from September 2000 and pupils from that area now attend Boheshill National School. It has been indicated to the school transport section of my Department that some pupils have difficulty in making their way to the current pick-up point. The safety of this [1563] pick-up point has also been questioned in correspondence received by my Department today from the principal teacher.

In the circumstances I have asked the school transport section of my Department to carry out a review of school transport provision to the [1564] school. This review will be completed as a matter of urgency. The Deputy will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.05 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 7 February 2002.

[1565]


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