Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has again called on the Minister for Education Norma Foley to act immediately to address the shambles that is School Bus Transport shortage in Wicklow. The Minister failed to appear before the Transport Committee in the Dáil this week, with school students stranded across Wicklow and the state as a whole. Despite being offered a series of five dates to appear before the Committee to address the crisis, the Minister has to date refused to appear.
“Having previously called upon the Minister to appear before the Committee, I want to again express my anger and frustration at the manner in which our school children and their families have been treated by this government.
I have been contacted by families from across Wicklow who find themselves in a horrible situation where their children have been denied access to school transport, primarily as a result of the shambolic mismanagement by the government and the Minister of Education in particular.
In some instances, all that is required is a level of commitment by local management to address the situation. Bus Eireann needs to seek additional capacity, and the government needs to act.
We have a situation at Ballyconnell National School (NS), where there are 25 children who have been refused a place on the school bus on the route between Tullow and Shilleagh. Even though they all fulfil the eligible criteria for school transport.
There are currently two buses on this route, a 52 seater, and a 24 seater. The obvious, and painfully apparent solution would be to replace the 24 seater, with a 52 seater. Instead, we are left with over two dozen children whose education is being needlessly interrupted.
Another family who I spoke to in the last few days told me that they had applied for a ticket for their children last Spring. Following which they anticipated that their application would follow the usual course and that they would receive a formal payment request in the July / August period. However, in the meantime, the Minister in her wisdom took the initiative to reopen the Portal on free school travel during summer – which would have meant that families had to apply before the end of July.
Which in the instance that was raised with me Bus Eireann failed to inform families about.
Some families only became aware of this last week. It has been alleged to me that Bus Eireann may have had difficulties sending emails to families with email accounts with certain providers. Although this family missed the deadline, they were informed by Bus Eireann that their application would be processed.
And although there were free places on the Bus in question, they were subsequently refused. I am informed that there are 25 children who have been refused places on this route alone.
Somebody in government needs to step up to the plate here. Our school children’s education suffered enough during Covid. This shambolic approach by the government and the Minister for Education cannot be allowed to continue. The very least that we need to see is some response from the other Minister with responsibilities in the Education sector from County Wicklow, Simon Harris. We need action immediately.”