School bus barney sorted for this year

By Maurice Garvey

CHILDREN who lost their places on a school bus due to a “lottery for concessionary places”, are hopeful that the matter has been resolved today after re-applying and paying for tickets at the last minute.

The issue relates to Palmerstown children who are travelling to the nearest available gaelscoil for them, which is located 5.7km away in Lucan.

Palmerstown School Bus compressor

Charlotte and Joseph O’Riordain (not related)

This distance is considered outside the criteria (3.2 kms to 4.8 kms) for the Department of Education School Transport Scheme, leaving Palmerstown kids eligible for transport on a concessionary, or temporary, basis only.

The Echo understands at least five children aged 6 to 12 years of age, are affected by the issue.

Palmerstown mother Amy said Bus Éireann informed her by email on August 12, that her son Joseph O’Riordain (6) had lost his place on the school bus, a place he held for the last two years.

 “We applied before the deadline in June, were refused, but a friend applied after the deadline and got three tickets for her kids,” said Amy, who works in Walkinstown.

“I appealed to the Dept Education two weeks ago, and I’m still waiting to hear back from them. So we decided to apply late. I paid €100 on August 27, haven’t received tickets but I’m just going to put him on the bus (on Thursday morning).”

Cllr Alan Hayes, was assured by Bus Éireann on Wednesday, that all of the affected children will be accepted on the school bus on Thursday morning (August 29).

“The blindspot is that school enrolment policy doesn’t line up with transport policy,” said Cllr Hayes.

“The Dept of Education say Gaeilscoil Camogie is the nearest school, but the school enrolment policy does not give priority to Palmerstown, and kids there will never get a place. That is the reality.”

Cllr Guss O’Connell said: “Ironically, Gaelscoil Naomh Pádraig began its life in Palmerstown, but had to move to Lucan due to lack of a suitable site about 25 years ago.”

O’Connell says the Department of Transport and the Department of Education have both failed to find a solution to the problem and it is “unfair that parents need to re-apply each year.”

The Echo understands there are two school buses in place to bring Palmerstown children to the Lucan gaelscoil, providing over 40 places in total.

The Echo asked the Department of Transport about the case, but were advised it is “a matter for Dept of Education & Skills.”

A Dept  of Education spokesperson told The Echo there was “no plans to review the distance criteria” of the School Transport Scheme.

“Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available, Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.

“Individual queries regarding applications for school transport for the 2019/20 school year should be addressed to the local Bus Éireann office.”

Cllr Hayes says the Dept will need to review their policy to avoid further problems.

 “We have managed to resolve it this year, but unless the Dept Education recognises Gaelscoil Naomh Padraig as the closest in terms of a school bus, we will be stuck with this next year,” he said.

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