School Transport 2020/21: Latest Updates
Bus Éireann, Ireland’s national bus company, operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of the Department of Education. Almost 120,000 students use school transport, accounting for 40 million journeys each year. More than 100 people work on the Scheme, excluding drivers and mechanics, and there are 11 dedicated local school transport offices right throughout the country.
Bus Éireann is currently issuing tickets and beginning services for School Transport for the 2020/21 school year. Last year, the School Transport Scheme accommodated 38,000 primary students, 68,000 post-primary and 14,200 were students with special educational needs. More than 70% of students availing of school transport are eligible – in other words they live more than 3.2km (primary) or 4.8km (post-primary) from their nearest school.
In response to the Government decision to limit capacity on post-primary school transport to 50%, in accordance with revised public health advice issued on 18 August 2020, Bus Éireann is:
- Reviewing all 2,100 post-primary routes to determine which solution can most quickly and appropriately deliver the 50% capacity. Solutions will range from schedule changes to additional resources in terms of vehicles and drivers. One-fifth of services will be at 50% capacity from commencement.
- Assessing which routes will need more resources in terms of vehicles and drivers
- Identifying those additional vehicles and drivers and making arrangements to procure these services through a competitive process
- Ensuring that all vetting and inspection of quality and safety standards is maintained, as well as appropriate procurement processes
- Training drivers and contractors about the Covid19 prevention protocols across primary and post-primary transport
Bus Éireann is drawing and allocating resources from across the organisation to support these efforts.
In relation to both primary and post-primary school transport, the guidelines already communicated to parents by the Department of Education include the following:
- Not to use school transport if students are displaying any symptoms of Covid19
- To maintain physical distancing while waiting for transport
- To always sit in pre-assigned seating and next to a sibling or child from same class group
- To use hand sanitiser on boarding the bus
- To observe respiratory etiquette at all times while waiting for and on-board transport services
- To disembark the bus one by one in an orderly fashion
With the exception of those children who for medical or special educational needs reasons are not in a position to wear a facemask or face covering, all other children aged 13 years and over to wear facemasks while waiting for and on-board transport services
There will be enhanced cleaning of school buses, including between morning and afternoon services.
Any parent/guardian wishing to organise alternative transport arrangements is entitled to a full refund of their School Transport Scheme fees from Bus Éireann. The Minister of Education has also announced that, at the end of the school year, a grant will be available relating to post-primary children who are eligible for transport whose parents/guardians choose to make private transport arrangements arising from the most recent health advice. This must be notified to the Department of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 4 September 2020.
“The entire team at Bus Éireann has been providing road passenger services nationwide over the past six months and is well-experienced in managing Covid19 prevention measures. We have worked intensively with all stakeholders – the Department of Education, contractors, drivers – so that the school bus will be there on reopening day for every student with a valid ticket, with significant additional public health measures,” said Miriam Flynn, Chief Schools Officer, Bus Éireann. “All stakeholders have been fully committed to meeting public health guidance for a safe return to school. That remains the case and we will work through logistical challenges to achieve the new guidelines as expeditiously as possible.”
Further information for parents / guardians is available at gov.ie/backtoschool