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Parents to protest march children 10km to school after access denied to bus service two weeks before term

Some students who were granted tickets in previous years have been denied them for the coming school term.

Bus Eireann Buses Source: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

PARENTS IN A Co Meath village are to walk with their children to school, 10 kilometres away, on Monday to highlight the fact their children have been denied access to a school bus service.

12 school children in Kildalkey in the west of the county have been denied access to a ‘concession’ school bus ticket for the coming school year.

The parents in question lodged their applications for such a ticket in April. Two weeks ago they were informed by Bus Éireann that their application had been refused, including in a number of cases for students who were granted a pass in previous years.

As a means of drawing attention to the situation, one which has been replicated to different extents in other districts in recent weeks including Kilkenny, Kildare and Wicklow to name three, the parents of the children are to walk the distance to school with their children on Monday morning.

“It’s a dangerous road too,” says local mother Una Swords. “But we have to organise this. Not just for us, for the kids coming up next year, where there’s a big sixth class in the local primary.”

It warrants a bus to cater to the community.

Spare seats

A concession ticket is one in which spare seats on Bus Éireann school bus services are allocated to students travelling to a school which the company and Department of Education do not consider to be optimal for the district in which the child is living.

Kildalkey is placed roughly equidistant between Athboy and Trim in the Leinster county. However bus spaces for the schools in Trim are managed on a concession basis for residents of the village.

Una has two daughters of school-going age – one of whom was already placed in the all-girl secondary school in Trim, Scoil Mhuire, and the other who began first year last week.

Both girls have now been denied a bus ticket.

3 Kildalkey, Co Meath Source: cianan

“Parents are trying to carpool and juggle their working lives, but it’s really tough,” she told TheJournal.ie.

Everyone has been sending loads of emails looking into the matter. Basically we’re not attending the secondary school that Bus Éireann thinks we should be. If we were going where they want then a second bus would be put on.

A concessionary bus ticket costs €350 for one pupil for a year, and €650 for siblings.

The local parents association has made repeat entreaties to Minister for Training and Skills John Halligan on the issue, who replied that he was making inquiries.

TheJournal.ie contacted Halligan for comment but no response was received prior to publication.

“This is an issue seen in other ways recently, such as in the shutting of the post offices,” said local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín.

It’s about the marginalisation of rural Ireland. You get so many people who settle in places like Kildalkey, who’ve come from Dublin say after being priced out of the market there, and now they’re simply stranded.

“You’ll end up with a situation where one brother will be able to get a school bus and another won’t.”

Random selection

A Department of Education spokesperson meanwhile said that concessionary tickets are distributed on a ‘random selection’ basis, with existing concessionary applicants given priority each year.

However, children not eligible to travel to a certain district, Trim in the case of Kildalkey, may miss out on a ticket if not enough places are available on the buses they have applied for.

IMG_4540 Local parents and students in Kildalkey village

“Under the terms of the scheme, the number of concessionary seats varies from year to year, based on the capacity of the buses running on all of the various routes and the number of eligible pupils accommodated on each route,” the spokesperson said.

Hence there is no guarantee that a non-eligible child who received a concessionary place in a previous year will receive a seat the following year, nor is there a guarantee that a sibling of a non-eligible child who receives a concessionary ticket will receive a seat. It is included in the terms and conditions on the Bus Éireann online application that availability of seats may vary from year to year and that concessionary transport cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s education.

Una Swords counters this saying that an exception was made for nearby Ballivor when it found itself in the same situation as Kildalkey last year – a situation resolved by the provision of an extra bus.

A Bus Éireann spokesperson meanwhile said that is “not open” for the company “to establish a service for concessionary pupils”.

“The availability of concessionary transport may vary from year to year, is not available on public scheduled services and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s post primary school education cycle,” they said.

“This happened in Ballivor last year and they got another bus,” says Swords. “So there’s precedent. But they’re stringing us along a lot longer this year.”

We’ve been trying to let other parents of younger children know, because it’s a situation that’s only going to get worse. These kids are only 12 or 13 years old. They’re too young to be left in town on their own.

The issue compounds a difficult week for Bus Éireann in the context of school bus services. Yesterday, the father of a student with Down Syndrome was informed that his daughter could not travel on a school bus service in Co Cork without an escort.

The contractor operating the service was subsequently removed from the service of the route in question.

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