School bus services need ‘complete overhaul’ – Soc Dems

The eligibility for school transport is set to be expanded.
James Wilson
James Wilson

12.05 19 Feb 2024

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School bus services need ‘comp...

School bus services need ‘complete overhaul’ – Soc Dems

James Wilson
James Wilson

12.05 19 Feb 2024

Share this article

There needs to be a “complete overhaul” of Ireland’s school bus services, the Social Democrats have said.

Under plans currently being finalised by the Department of Education, thousands more children will soon become eligible for the school transport scheme.

Currently, post-primary pupils who live more than 4.8 kilometres from school can apply to the scheme but it is  expetced that distance will be reduced to 2 kilometres.


For primary school pupils, it could drop down to 1 kilometre.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Social Democrats Children spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore said she is concerned there are currently not enough drivers for the eligibility to be expanded.

“There needs to be a review of the contracts,” she said.

“What I’m hearing is [that] the contracts from the Department are essentially costed at such a low level… I think that needs to be looked at.

“We also need to look at who can actually drive a bus; the Government should be looking at bringing more people into that job.”

The Wicklow TD said it is currently far too difficult to become a bus driver and the Government needs to consider how that can be reformed.

“You’re talking about a €2,000, €3,000 upfront payment for that,” she said.

“That’s prohibitive.

“We need to look at the age thresholds on drivers because Bus Éireann, they actually apply quite a tight age limit.

“There’s a whole ream of things the Department could be looking at to make sure this scheme works properly and they’re not doing it.”

'Left on the side of the road'

In 2022, free school bus transport was temporarily introduced to help families with the rising cost of living.

Demand for the service soared and the result was some children who had taken the bus for years found themselves without places.

Last year, fees returned and parents contribute €50 for a primary school child and €75 for a child in secondary school; fees are capped at €125 for all families.

Deputy Whitmore said the Government needs to be careful any expansion in eligibility is more carefully planned.

“There were hundreds of children that found out on the day before they were to start school in September, that the school bus was not going to be available for them,” she said.

“We had weeks and months where children weren’t sure if their bus was going to show up, whether there was a driver available.

“There were 10-year-old children being left on the side of the road because they thought their bus was going to show up and it didn’t.”

A group of school children in school uniforms. Image: NorthScape / Alamy Stock Photo

Deputy Whitmore said the Government should also consider whether the Department of Education are the right people to handle the school transport.

“What we needed to see was a complete overhaul of the school transport scheme because it’s really not working for thousands of children across the country every year,” she said.

“What we need to see from the Department is consideration whether the Department of Education should be running this scheme or whether it’s more appropriate under the Department of Transport.

“We need to make sure and see the Department really taking ownership of this - and making sure that there’s bus drivers available to drive the buses. We can’t have a situation where parents are having to give up work.”

Applications for school transport services 2024-2025 open at the end of February.

Main image: A school bus. Picture by:

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