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Foley confident every child will return to school next week but says extra 1,600 buses a 'logistical challenge'

The Minister for Education said that parents of eligible children who make alternative transport arrangements “will be recompensed”.

Minister for Education Norma Foley.
Minister for Education Norma Foley.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION Norma Foley has said it’s “quite a logistical challenge” to provide transport for secondary school students with buses set to run at 50% capacity following advice from NPHET.

Foley said up to 1,600 buses are required to ensure secondary school students can get to school, and that the government is working on providing this transport as “quickly as possible”. 

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme, the minister suggested that if parents of children who are eligible to travel on a school bus wish to organise alternative transport in the meantime “they will be recompensed for doing that”. 

New guidelines issued by the government earlier this week urged the public to avoid the use of public transport where possible.

It had previously planned to run school buses at full capacity when pupils return this month, but to have students wear face coverings to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

“Discussions are already underway with Bus Éireann… in order to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity will do so,” a spokesman for the department said.

School transport for primary students are unaffected by the latest advice from NPHET. 

When pressed on if all of these services will be available in time for schools re-opening next week, Foley said today that efforts were being made to roll out capacity as “speedily as possible”, it is also “quite a logistical challenge to do that immediately”. 

“We’re talking about an additional 1,600 buses,” she said. “Some buses will operate at that next week but we’ll be rolling it out as quickly as we can.”

Minister Foley also suggested that if parents of eligible children wanted to make alternative arrangements for their child to get to school in the meantime, they’d be recompensed.

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She also she was “very conscious” of the “phenomenal” work being put in by schools to ensure they can re-open safely next week, adding school communities were working “night and day”. 

Foley also said she was confident every child will be able to return to school next week, even if they’re in a country with additional restrictions such as Kildare.

Later today, it is expected that the restrictions places on Laois and Offaly will be lifted but will remain in place for Kildare, 

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Sean Murray

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