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Warning that transport review ‘could close schools’

BUS drivers have voiced their concern about the future of school transport in Fermanagh by holding a protest outside the Education Authority’s Sligo Road Depot.
Led by Unite the Union, the protest was the reaction to a review of home to school transport recently launched by the Department of Education.
Speaking to the Herald, Ciaran McCallion, a former yellow bus driver and Unite representative said that each choice laid out in the Department of Education’s online review was unviable.
“First of all it is going to impact greatly on all rural transport. Children’s education should not be compromised, nor should their travel or safety.”
He added that Fermanagh had a substantial number of transport routes servicing rural schools.
“The schools themselves could end up reducing numbers and we could see amalgamations where we are reducing the number of schools and transport. It has a knock-on effect,” Mr McCallion said.
As part of the Department’s consultation three possible options are set out asking respondents to choose between charges for school transport, an increase in the distance for free transport eligibility or providing free transport only to the nearest school within the chosen category.
While commenting on the topic he added that any increase to current walking distances would impact a lot of children who may be expected to “walk along country roads with no lights, no foot paths, on dark mornings and in severe weather conditions, if they decided to implement this”.
In addition to this Mr McCallion warned that there could be potential knock-on financial effects, as well as job losses.
“They’re trying to introduce a small cost which we predict will be a very minimal cost to get this over the line.
“Once this goes over the line there could be a gradual increase on costs.
“Transport is not a privilege but a right to the children,” he added.
Reacting a spokesman for the Department of Education said, “It is important to make clear that the review of the home to school transport policy is not about cutting the costs and depending on the nature of any revised policy, it is possible that there would be no reduction in overall expenditure or the number of pupils in receipt of home to school transport.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA