SIXTEEN children from Raheen who were initially informed by Bus Eireann that they were ineligible to avail of school bus transport to Heywood Community School have gained an eleventh hour reprieve.
To be considered eligible for Post Primary School transport, children must reside not less than 4.8kms and are attending their nearest education centre.
And according to Bus Eireann Chief Executive Officer Martin Nolan ‘the measurements were verified’ by his Inspector for the Laois area and ‘all sixteen reside closer to either Portlaoise or Mountrath post primary centres’.
However, following intervention from Senator John Whelan, who says ‘the brakes must be put on this bureaucratic system’, the students in this particular case were accommodated but it isn’t a permanent resolution to the crux.
“This doesn’t solve the problem as it’s going to continue to arise again unless there is some common sense brought to bear,” explained Senator Whelan.
The students were accommodated for the 2012/’13 school year since there were sufficient remaining seats only after pupils who are eligible were given first preference.
Mr Nolan, in correspondence to the Labour Senator, outlined, “Distance eligibility is determined by measuring the shortest traversable route from the child’s home to the relevant education centre. Bus Eireann does not have discretion to interpret the conditions of the scheme in any other way.”
Senator Whelan is imploring with the Minister responsible for school transport, Deputy Ciaran Cannon, to ‘urgently review’ the over officious implementation of the policy as it is leading to ‘severe hardship and undue distress’.
He added, “Meausuring tapes and red tape are now being used to bully children into going to schools in other parishes or even counties. The basic principles behind the policy are sound however it was never intended to apply it in such an over-zealous fashion that would inflict hardship on families, split siblings up from attending the same school and lead to additional costs for the Department and taxpayer.”
Fianna Fáil’s Deputy Sean Fleming stressed that there are serious anomalies. “I hope in the short term these problems can be resolved but unless there is change things will get worse. We need to come up with alternative arrangements.”
Deputy Fleming continued, “It is causing financial grief for parents and major problems in terms of families now having to arrange to send their children to different schools.”
He outlined that students due to start in Heywood CS from The Swan, Woolfhill and Newtown are being told there is no school transport and that they should attend Castlecomer CS even though Bus Eireann ‘has made it clear they will not run a bus’ from The Swan to Castlecomer as there aren’t ‘sufficient’ numbers.
Deputy Fleming concluded, “In Borris-in-Ossory some parents who normally send their children to St Fergal’s Rathdowney are now being told Roscrea is their nearest school and they will not be eligible for school transport to Rathdowney. Some families in the Ballyadams parish have been told that Ballylinan is their local school for transport purposes. And in the Raheen case a concession arrangement has been arrived at for this year only.”