Transport crisis hits Finn Valley schools

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Reporter:

Michelle Nic Phaidin

A public meeting will take place in the Castlefin Partenrship Initiative (CPI) office Castlefin on Monday, February 13 to discuss the changes that are to take place in the traditional post primary bus routes.

A public meeting will take place in the Castlefin Partenrship Initiative (CPI) office Castlefin on Monday, February 13 to discuss the changes that are to take place in the traditional post primary bus routes.

The new transport scheme will only transport new pupils to their closest post primary school which will be Raphoe in the case of some of the parents in the Finn Valley area. It is understood that these changes will affect all pupils from Liscooley to Lifford.

Stranorlar Electoral Area councillor, Patrick McGowan, has called for the new post primary transport scheme to be postponed until next year to allow a proper plan to be put in place with primary and post primary school principles being consulted and advised of all changes.

From September 2012, all new entrants to post primary education will be eligible for school transport to their nearest Post Primary education centre if they live 4.8km or more from their nearest Post Primary education centre having regard to language and ethos. Pupils who live under 4.8km to their nearest Post Primary school may apply for concessionary travel only. This change means that some pupils who were previously ineligible for School Transport are now eligible. There is no change to those pupils who are currently in Post Primary education. This change to the Scheme was announced in December 2010 as part of Budget 2011.

Cllr McGowan said that parents are going to schools to register students only to find that they may not be able to avail of school transport. He added that there has been no information about the changes that have been made available to students and their children.

“One would have expected that a plan would have been drawn up in consultation with the various stake holders, such as primary and post primary school principles. As a public services provider, Bus Éirean and the Department of Education should have undertaken an information blitz across the country over the last few months,” he said.

He believes that in the current climate, parents in the region are confused in relation to where new boundaries will be and what changes have been put in place. “There is no plan to manage the changes and outline to parents where the new boundaries will be in relation to towns, villages or town lands. Communities and families will be divided down the middle with no preparation or warning of what may be facing them. The area of Lifford, Doneyloop, Castlefin up to Liscooley will now have to go to Raphoe schools instead of Stranorlar and this will work vice versa in other cases,” he said.

He said that he was concerned that parents were only learning of these changes at the last minute as they turn up to register their children for school. “Parents are learning of these major changes at the last minute when they turn up to register. While existing children in a family will continue to get transport to there present school younger brothers and sisters will be forced to go to another school if it is closer to there home unless they want to pay the full bus amount themselves,” he said.