THE ABSENCE of a Bus Eireann service for up to 100 county Limerick students to the school of their choice is “wreaking havoc” on parents’ plans ahead of the new school term and is “bureaucracy gone mad” according to Limerick TD, Niall Collins, who is going to raise the issue in the Dail.
The principal of Colaiste Iosaef secondary school in Kilmallock and parents of students attending the school have expressed their “extreme disappointment” that Bus Eireann is not providing a service to the school for students travelling from Bruff and surrounding areas as a result of restrictions under the Post Primary School Transport Scheme.
“I have had a lot of contact from parents. They are very upset. The practical effect of the decision is wreaking havoc on their plans,” said Deputy Niall Collins this week.
According to the Department of Education, children are eligible for transport if they reside 4.8kms or more from, and are attending, their nearest education centre as determined by the department/Bus Éireann.
“They are being told that Hospital is 200 yards nearer when their kids are going to Kilmallock - it is completely nonsensical. It’s bureaucracy gone mad. I’m raising it in the Dail this week with the Minister for Education. I’m effectively going to ask him to reverse the decision,” continued Deputy Collins.
“It’s most unfair that this gets dropped on families in the middle of their summer holidays and all the stress and the worry that goes with it,” he added.
As a result of the phasing out of second level education at Ard Scoil Mhuire secondary school in Bruff in recent years - and the closure of the school last month - many students from the town and surrounding areas have enrolled at Colaiste Iosaef in Kilmallock.
There are currently in the region of 100 students from Bruff and the surrounding area travelling to school in Kilmallock although it has not been established exactly how many would avail of the bus service.
While many of these students had availed of a Bus Eireann service to the Bruff school in the past they will now no longer be able to avail of a Bus Eireann service to the Kilmallock school if it’s established that they live closer to other schools – namely Colaiste Chiarain in Croom or John the Baptist Secondary School in Hospital.
“They are now measuring a house to the nearest school and they will provide transport to the nearest school,” explained Noel Ryan from Camass in Bruff whose daughter is going into junior certificate year in Colaiste Iosaef in Kilmallock.
“The parents seem to want to send their children to school in Kilmallock because the Croom school is quite full. There are 800 students or more there,” he said.
Mr Ryan says he has measured the distance from Bruff to both Hospital and Kilmallock on the route the school bus would take and has found that it is nearer to Kilmallock by .3 of a kilometre. However, he has since learned that distance eligibility will be determined by Bus Éireann measuring the shortest traversable route from the child’s home to the relevant education centre.
“They went up a narrow road and they did get Hospital nearer to Bruff than Kilmallock. I had gone the way the school bus goes but the guideline is they go the shortest route and they went the shortest route,” he explained.
Colaiste Iosaef in Kilmallock has been providing a private bus service for students travelling from Bruff in recent years. The service was being partially subsidised by the school. “The Bus Eireann school bus is €350 whereas the private school bus that has been provided by the school is €400 per student per year. Someone said that the school one will be gone up to €450 next year so if you are living on the wrong side of the bridge (in Bruff) you are paying €100 more for your child,” said Mr Ryan.
Another mother said that because her son holds a medical card he would be entitled to use the Bus Eireann service free of charge but he has been informed that the service is not open to him as he is not attending the school nearest to his place of residence.
Principal of Colaiste Iosaef in Kilmallock, Sean Twomey, said it was “extremely disappointing to think that we have almost 100 students coming from Bruff and surrounding areas and some are not being provided with transport into the school of their choice.
“It should certainly appear to be financially viable for Bus Eireann to provide the bus,” he said.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said the terms of the Post Primary School Transport scheme “are applied equitably on a national basis. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport to a particular school on a concessionary basis. However, in accordance with the terms of the scheme, additional or larger vehicles will not be provided to cater for children travelling on a concessionary basis.”