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2018 School Transport Scheme, Closing Date 27th July

School Transport

The main responsibilities of School Transport Section are

  • To oversee the delivery of a safe and efficient school transport service, operated by

    Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department, within available resources and to ensure a

    coordinated Departmental approach in delivering school transport services
  • To ensure timely payment of grants to assist eligible families with school

    transportation costs, in circumstances where it is not feasible or economic to provide

    school transport services.
  • Summary of School Transport Scheme

    School transport is a significant daily operation, which directly supports over 116,000

    children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, who are transported

    in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the

    country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in


    School Transport provision has evolved considerably since the school transport scheme was

    established in 1967. However, the purpose of the Scheme has remained the same which is,

    having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children

    who reside remote i.e. 3.2 kilometres (primary) and 4.8 kilometres (post primary) or more

    from their nearest school / education centre.

    In addition, children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a

    concessionary basis where seats are available after all eligible applicants have been

    accommodated on school transport services. While it is the prerogative of parents to send

    their children to the school of their choice, eligibility for school transport is to the nearest

    education centre/school.

    In particular, transport provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) has

    expanded significantly since the 1970's to the current scheme introduced in November 2011.

    The purpose of the SEN transport scheme is to provide a reasonable level of transport service

    for children with a diagnosed disability and/or special educational need who because of the

    nature of their disability may not be in a position to avail of a school bus service. While circa

    11% of children transported have special educational needs transport provision for these

    children accounts for circa 49% of all school transport scheme expenditure. The number of

    children on the Special Education Needs (SEN

    Delivery of Service

    The school transport scheme is delivered using a mix of Bus Éireann vehicles (357 operating

    daily) and private contractor vehicles (4,452). Of the private contractor vehicles, 1,200 are

    taxis operating on the SEN scheme.

    Payments to school transport contractors are the single largest area of expenditure in the

    school transport scheme, amounting to approximately €132 million in 2017.

    The level of BE direct provision has been consistently reducing since 2008. The Bus Éireann

    school transport fleet has reduced from 532 in 2008 to the current level of 357 which means

    that they are providing less than 10% of school transport services.

    Grants are payable for both eligible mainstream and special educational needs children in

    cases where there is no suitable school transport service. These grants are processed directly

    by Department's School Transport Section staff. Approximately 2,500 families are in receipt

    of school transport grants.


    Current Annual Rate:

    Primary: Eligible / Concessionary €100

    Family maximum €220

    Post Primary: Eligible / Concessionary €350

    Family maximum €650

    School transport charges have remained the same since the 2012/13 school year.

    Eligible children holding valid medical cards and eligible children with special educational

    needs are exempt from paying the charge.

    In 2017, receipts from school transport charges amounted to some €15.4m or about 9% of

    the total cost of the scheme provided by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

    Financial Provision

    Note: 2018 Allocation €190 million

    Increase in the number of “concessionary” children availing of school transport

    services as a consequence of the 2011 budgetary changes.

    Changes to the school transport scheme (primary and post primary) were announced in

    Budget 2011, derived from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the School

    Transport Scheme (published March 2011). One of the changes at primary was the cessation

    of the long standing “closed school rule” and at post primary the cessation of the long

    standing catchment boundary area system (CB) to determine eligibility. These changes,

    introduced in 2011 and 2012 respectively, will take a full school cycle of 8/6 years respectively

    to implement viz. completion by June 2019/June 2018.

    Existing children at that time who were eligible for school transport, and met the distance

    criteria of 3.2kms/4.8 kms respectively, retain their transport eligibility for the duration of

    their schooling, provided their circumstances do not change.

    This approach complements the overall Department policy which is to ensure that specific

    school accommodation needs for defined geographical areas are addressed in an orderly


    Transport on a “concessionary” basis is available to children who are not eligible for school

    transport, because they are not attending their nearest school or because they reside less

    than the requisite distance. Transport on a concessionary basis is subject to a number of

    conditions which are detailed in the School Transport Scheme such as the existence of spare

    seats on the bus after all eligible children have been catered for and payment of the school

    transport charge regardless of whether the child holds a valid medical card.

    As a consequence of these changes, the evidence is that a growing number of children are

    availing of school transport on a concessionary basis since 2011 as follows:

    *C denotes concessionary

    Concessionary Transport

    The Programme for Government committed to a review of the concessionary charges and rules

    element of the School Transport Scheme. This review was commenced in June 2016 and published in

    December of that year. As part of the review process an Oireachtas Cross Party Working Group was

    established to feed into the review and that group met to discuss school transport issues. The review

    published in December made recommendations on both the charges and the rules element of

    concessionary school transport.

    As outlined in the review there have been a number of reports on the school transport scheme over

    the years and the current scheme is based on a detailed Value for Money Review published in

    2011. Therefore this review did not deal with the range of issues dealt with in that report.

    With regard to the charges for concessionary school the recommended course of action was to

    continue with the current position whereby charges remain in place for those in receipt of

    concessionary places. Minister Halligan agreed with this recommendation on the basis that those

    applying for concessionary transport are making a conscious decision to do so and understand the

    implications of this choice at the time of application.

    The report also recommended that the number of concessionary places should be reduced in line with

    the rules introduced in 2012 on a phased basis. Previous plans to advance this option were put on

    hold, pending the completion of the review. However upon consideration of the review and

    discussions at the Cross Party Working Group Minister Halligan decided that there should be no

    planned programme of downsizing in the coming year except in line with normal operational

    decisions within the current scheme.

    School Transport Appeals Board

    The School Transport Appeals Board was first established in 2003. The Board is appointed by the

    Minister of State, Department of Education and Skills, for a period of three years and may be removed

    by him/her for stated reasons.

    It currently comprises of a chairperson and four other members appointed by the Minister. The Board

    is independent in the performance of its functions but acts in accordance with (a) its Terms of

    Reference as determined by the Minister and (b) a set of published Operating Procedures.

    The Board currently examines and determines appeals against decisions made by, or on behalf of, the

    Department regarding the provision of school transport services and/or grant-aid under the terms of

    the School Transport Scheme.

    The current Board was appointed in July 2018 and comprises:

    Chairperson: Ms. Connie Carolan, National Parents Council Post Primary

    Board members: Mr. Seán Mac Conmara, former Divisional Inspector with the Department

    Ms. Bridie Kearns former Regional School Transport Manager Bus Éireann

    Mr. Joe Fitzsimons, former post primary teacher

    Mr. Ciarán Flynn, former General Secretary ACCS