Speaking after it emerged that many students were still waiting for their school bus tickets to be issued earlier this week, Sinn Féin Councillor Rose Conway-Walsh said this was just one in a list of problems with the school transport system, and called for a review by the Department of Education and Skills.
Cllr Conway-Walsh said: “Thousands of students are still waiting for their bus tickets to be issued due to technical issues with the Bus Éireann website now that all tickets must be purchased online. While Bus Éireann are making efforts to facilitate most children, the Department of Education and Skills has a responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. While the school transport scheme is generally OK, the fact that the rigid online payment scheme that forces parents to pay up to €650 in two instalments leaves many parents to the pin of their collar when it comes to finances.”
She went on to say: “There is no reason why this can’t be reviewed to look at the potential of introducing a monthly payment system, particularly now that there is a complete online payment system. Further to this, there are problems with changes that have taken place to the system leaving many children unable to attend schools that siblings have gone to because they will be unable to avail of the school transport scheme. Ballycroy is a typical example of this where new students are being forced to attend the Achill School rather than the Belmullet Schools their siblings have attended. Routes need to be revised to take into account changes in housing. Minor changes should be able to be made at a local level. A flexible approach and a bit of common sense would go a long way to meeting the needs of children. Considering the financial pressure parents are under when it comes to funding children’s education, between contributions and the cost of uniforms and many schools’ failure to introduce cost-effective book rental schemes, it is not a big ask for Minister Jan O’Sullivan to instruct her Department to review the scheme.”
In response to the issue of students not receiving tickets, Bus Éireann issued a statement this week saying: “Bus Éireann has issued the vast majority of school tickets required for students using the School Transport Scheme this term. To allay any concerns for the minority of parents who have not yet received these in the post, the company has decided to issue temporary email tickets to any families whose tickets have been processed since Wednesday August 20. Bus Éireann will also accept receipt of payment or email confirmation from anyone who paid before the deadline of August 1 last. This is a temporary interim measure to ensure all passengers who have paid will have access to our services. We also continue to operate our Freephone helpline number (1800 ) 945 945 from 9am to 8pm and would ask any parents or guardians with concerns or queries, to contact this number.”