Department says changes to school transport catchment areas stem from 2011 budget

The Department of Education says changes to catchment areas for school transport are being brought in on a phased basis.

They will mean changes to some routes in the coming school year but the Department has confirmed to Ocean FM News that this is in line with variations each year and no ‘down-sizing’ is taking place.

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Eireann on behalf of the Department of Education.

However, the Department has been forced to defend itself this week as pressure mounts from rural communities on changes locally that could mean some pupils having to change schools to meet new criteria.

One issue affecting pupils in Bunninaden in south Sligo are changes to the catchment areas.

The Department says the ‘catchment boundary area system’ at secondary level ended in 2012 following changes announced in the Budget as a result of a ‘Value for Money’ report.

Bunninaden is now in the Ballymote catchment area and so the bus stopping there will only bring pupils to Ballymote.

Those going to Tubbercurry would have to be driven to another area to pick up another bus or parents would simply have to drive their children to school

The department says the changes affect new applicants to the scheme since 2012 but they are being phased in over a 6 to 8 year period.

It says while route changes will happen in the coming year, it is not part of any ‘down-sizing’ exercise.

The department also says that families living in very remote areas can also avail of the remote area grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

Parents in Bunninaden in south Sligo met with local politicians last night on the issue and they are to seek a meeting with Minister of State John Halligan this week.