Department of Education says any downsizing of school buses is 'pending review'

A review will look into the rules and charges associated with concessionary places on buses

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The Department of Education says there will be no planned programme of downsizing school buses this year - pending a review of the concessionary places available to some students.

It comes after reports that one in five school children could lose their place on school buses as a result of the possible downsizing of bus sizes.

The Irish Independent reports that concessionary ticket holders would lose out, because they only get a place if there are spare seats on the bus.

Concessionary passengers cannot be guaranteed a seat for the duration of the school cycle, and pay an annual charge for the service.

If the size of buses is reduced, up to 22,000 pupils holding concessionary tickets could end up with no way to get to school.

A briefing document for the new Education Minister Richard Bruton outlines the changes, the Independent reports.

The recent Programme for Government contained a pledge for a "review the concessionary charges and rules element of the School Transport Scheme prior to Budget 2017".

In a statement today, the Department of Education says the review is now being commenced by Junior Minister John Halligan.

The Department says the review "will be aimed at identifying issues in relation to current rules and charges relating to concessionary places on the school transport scheme with a view to maximising the effectiveness of available services for users.

"Pending this review, there will be no planned programme of downsizing school buses in the coming school year. There will be route changes and variations in line with normal operational decisions that occur from year to year, and any impacts in terms of increases or decreases of available places will be marginal, in line with what occurs every year," the statement adds.

The Department also emphasises that any students eligible for a place on school transport will not be impacted. 

The School Transport Scheme is operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. It had a cost of €170m in 2014, with payments from passengers reportedly accounting for less than €20m of that total.