Laois parents to meet with Minister on lack of school bus service

In 2009, Bus Éireann cut the service from a 52 seater bus to a 32 seater because the numbers were not there however, eight years on the number of students has changed.

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan

Laois parents to meet with Minister on lack of school bus service

Parents of children in the Vicarstown and Emo areas will meet with Minister of State for Training and Skills, John Halligan TD on Wednesday, August 20 in Leinster House.

Laois TD and Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD has confirmed that Minister John Halligan TD will meet with the concerned parents in Dublin to discuss the need for a larger bus to serve the area so that local children can attend secondary schools in Portlaoise.

Up to 18 students in the Vicarstown, Emo and wider rural community will not have a way to get to school when the new term starts back this week due to lack of seating and the criteria in place to get a seat on the bus.

A 32 seater bus is running but this is not enough seats to cater for the number of students who need it.

Bus Éireann

In 2009, Bus Eireann cut the service from a 52 seater bus to a 32 seater because the numbers were not there however, eight years on the number of students has changed.

Bus Éireann has said that under the Department of Education & Skills Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8km from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Eireann.

There were 32 eligible applicants for 33 available seats for the bus route this year from the Vicarstown/Emo area to Portlaoise.

Only one concessionary student could be accommodated via random selection.

The simple solution to the problem would be for Bus Éireann to run a larger bus however it has said that it does not have the money in its budget to do that.

The problem with the criteria of attending the nearest school is a lack of availability in schools.

Families Affected

The Athy secondary school is 0.02km nearer to Yvonne Kelly than Portlaoise College is.

She could not get her son into secondary school in Athy as there was no availability.

Yvonne was very grateful that Portlaoise College had a space to take her son after it was the third secondary school she tried to get him into.

Now her son has no way of getting to Portlaoise College because of the criteria in place that the student must be attending their nearest school.

“All we want is a bigger bus, it is so simple and it is ridiculous. It is extremely unfair.

“This problem seems to raise its head every year in areas like Emo, Vicarstown and Stradbally. This is not the first year and this problem is not going to go away, let’s use common sense here,” she said.

Political support

Yvonne was one of around 40 people who met in Vicarstown on Thursday evening, August 24 with local political leaders to discuss the matter.

Charlie Flanagan has said that he brought the issue to Minister John Halligan.

"I have made strong representations to Minister John Halligan on the urgent need for a larger school bus to serve the Vicarstown/Emo route so that all children on concessionary tickets can be accommodated for the coming year and I will continue to pursue matters in this regard with the Minister at the meeting next week,’’ he said.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley and Fianna Fail TD Seán Fleming attended the meeting and listened to the different reasons why parents were not granted tickets for the bus and the difficult situations parents have now been put in.

Cllrs Tom Mulhall, Paschal McEvoy and Mary Sweeney also attended at the meeting.

Around 40 people went to the meeting including parents of pupils who will need the school  bus service in the future.

There was great community support behind the parents and students who were in the situation of not having a ticket for the school bus.

Yvonne will be one of the parents who goes to Leinster House on Wednesday August 30 to meet Minister Halligan and try to secure a larger bus service for the area.

Read more: Laois students will be left stranded on Tuesday morning with lack of school bus service.