The system of allocation for school bus passes, especially in rural communities, needs to be re-evaluated says Cork Senator Tim Lombard.
“Many families in both urban and rural communities rely on Bus Eireann for transporting their students to and from school. The current system to gain a bus pass however is in desperate need for revision as it does not provide any flexibility for applicants facing circumstances outside their control.
“Conflict arises, for example, when students decided to repeat their Leaving Certification. Since these results are not available until late July it is impossible for families to know if a bus pass is needed for the following year, thus they miss April application deadline.
“In this current system any student with the slightest chance of re-sitting Leaving Cert. exams should apply for a bus pass in case they might need it. This is impractical for both students and the bus service, producing an inaccurate estimate of demand.
“Furthermore, the system fails to address the needs of students who have moved parishes since the application date. Relocations are often unpredictable, and can occur during the school year, resulting in additional stress on parents and students who cannot access a transferred bus pass.
“Additionally, the process by which such situations are addressed is habitually slow. Too often families do not know the status of an application until late summer, or even after school has started, so many are forced to find alternative methods of transportation. The refund process is equally flawed, with lengthy delays in providing refunds for applications that have been denied.
“These flaws are unacceptable for such a critical component of our education system. Providing reliable school’s transport enables our access to education, as well as a bit of breathing space for working parents. We need a reliable system that can acknowledge the potential for changeable and unpreventable circumstances, and provide flexibility for applicants in such situations.
“I brought this issue to the floor of the Seanad during the week, debating the need to fix the current school bus pass system so we can ensure that all students have access to the transportation they are entitled to.
“I will also be submitting a debate calling the Minister of State with responsibility for schools transport, John Halligan TD, to outline his plans for addressing the issues identified within the current system.”