Families may have to pay for school bus from September

END OF THE ROAD…free school transport could be scrapped

END OF THE ROAD…free school transport could be scrapped

PLANS to impose charges on thousands of Fermanagh students for transport to and from their schools has been criticised by local principals.
It follows reports that the Education Authority (EA) is considering bringing forward charges of between £50 and £200 per child from this September. The service is currently free of charge for pupils living more three miles from their post-primary school or two miles from their primary school as the EA picks up the tab at a cost of £72m a year. The service includes pupil bus passes for use on Translink services or travel on buses operated by the EA. The EA needs to make savings of around £45m in 2016/17, £50m in the following year and £37m in 2018/19 after the Department of Education (DE) reduced its budget allocation by £22m this year.
In the Republic, parents currently face a yearly charge of €100 (£87) for every primary school pupil who is eligible for school transport or €350 (£305) for post-primary – €650 (£566) is the maximum amount any family faces for annual school transport.
St Michael’s College principal Mark Henry told the Herald that he is “deeply concerned” that the EA is considering charging parents for their children’s transport.
He said: “This proposed charge would impact greatly in rural areas like Fermanagh where most children travel more than three miles to their post primary school. Over 600 families send their children to school in St. Michael’s College from all parts of the county. The vast majority of these families would, therefore, be subject to this proposed charge. I believe it would be unfair to impose this additional financial burden on families at a time of significant political and economic uncertainty.”
His concerns were echoed by Elizabeth Armstrong, principal of Enniskillen Royal Grammar School:
“Given we serve a widely dispersed rural hinterland where the majority of our pupils travel to school by bus we are aware that the issue of home to school transport is an important one for our school community and our pupils and parents. In any decision going forward it is vital that the particular circumstances relating to the needs of pupils and their parents in a rural area are fully recognised. The situation in Fermanagh is clearly very different from that in Belfast and account needs to be taken of this,” she added.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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