Review of school transport recommends reducing distance rules

Other items at Cabinet include appointment of special advocate for survivors of Magdalene laundries; update on insurance reforms; and plans to improve adult literacy

A review of the school transport scheme has recommended abolishing the “nearest school” rule and reducing distance rules for eligibility but no significant changes are to be made to the system for at least 18 months.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is to seek Cabinet approval for the publication of the review.

It is understood that the rules of the scheme will remain the same for the 2024/2025 school year due to challenges securing additional buses and drivers in the tight labour market.

Fees for the scheme, which carries 161,000 students, are set to remain frozen at their current rates for the next school year.


However, the review makes a series of recommendations for changes to the school transport scheme that would be phased in up to 2030.

These include abolishing the “nearest school” rule, which requires a student applying to the school transport scheme to choose the nearest school to their house, and reducing the distance rules.

Under existing rules, a primary school pupil must live at least 3.2km from their school to qualify for a bus place under the school transport scheme.

This would reduce to 2km and then 1km, depending on available funding.

A secondary school pupil must live at least 4.8km from their school to qualify for a bus place under the school transport scheme.

This would reduce to 2km depending on available funding.

It will be the school year of 2025/2026 at the earliest that any of the significant changes proposed in the review will begin to be introduced.

Separately, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is expected to seek Cabinet approval for the appointment of an independent special advocate for survivors of Magdalene laundries, industrial and reformatory schools and mother and baby homes. The appointment of an advocate was a commitment in the Mother and Baby Home Action Plan.

In another item on the agenda Ministers are to be updated on the implementation of the Action Plan for Insurance Reform by Minister for Finance Michael McGrath with some 95 per cent of actions now complete.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris will brief colleagues on measures to be taken in 2024 to improve adult literacy. These include plans to fund 38 staff members across Government departments and agencies, Education and Training Boards, public, health and community services and non-governmental organisations to become plain language editors.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will provide an update on women’s health initiatives, including how almost 200,000 women aged 17-31 availed of free contraception in the first 10 months of 2023.

Other items in the progress report include how all six Regional Fertility Hubs are now operational across the country to provide access to publicly funded assisted human reproduction treatment and six specialist menopause clinics have opened.

Seventeen of the 19 maternity hospitals are now providing full termination of pregnancy services, with services commencing in the final two hospitals in 2024.

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times