Gaelscoil students without school transport

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

Up to 35 secondary school students from Swords have effectively been left without school transport, claim parents and Cllr Ann Graves (SF).

Only days before students were set to return to Ghlór na Mara Gaelscoil in Balbriggan, parents of students living in the Swords area were informed their children would not have a seat or concessionary ticket on Bus Eireann transport services, as they lived greater than the 4.8km to their nearest school.

A furious Cllr Graves said: “When Ghlór na Mara was opened in Balbriggan, it was as a feeder Gaelscoil to cater for all of Fingal.  As such, many Swords family seeking to continue their children’s education ‘as Gaeilge’, signed up.”

Bus Éireann has sanctioned a school bus from Blake’s Cross through Ballyboughal, Oldtown to Balbriggan with no stop in Swords. 

“It is stupendous that, during a time when we are trying to encourage sustainable transport systems, this will force parents into driving to Blakestown (over 8k each way) or Balbriggan to drop children off. Depending on traffic, it could take 15-20 minutes each way to Balbriggan

“Apart from the environmental impacts, this will put an additional burden on families dealing with the ever-rising costs of living. Most are working parents, and already it is causing great hardship. The simplest solution would be for the school bus route to be revised and to stop in Swords. Ghlór na Mara was promoted as a new Gaelscoil for Fingal, yet these Fingal students are impeded against availing of school transport!”

Joanne from Rathbeale, Swords is the mother of two youth attending the Balbriggan school, having previously attended Gaelscoil Bhrian Bóroimhe NS.

“Last year, there was a private bus (Airside Coaches) transporting students. It was expensive but the driver was excellent, and I understand he could have been running at a loss. There are more children from Swords now going to Balbriggan and more to join next year.

“We all applied to Bus Eireann for bus tickets and set up a WhatsApp group to communicate together. So far as I know, no one has been approved for school transport or a concessionary pass from Blake’s Cross. There is a bus route, the 101 airport bus but this would leave at 7am, and students would have to walk during winter in the dark from the top of Balbriggan, through the industrial estate to get to the school.

“It is so frustrating, and now I’m having to drive twice a day back and forth to Balbriggan. When sports and additional study kicks in, I could be doing three runs a day!  It is only with the good will of my employer that I can do this.

“We’ve had great support from Deputy Duncan Smith (Lab) and Cllr Ann Graves, who have been highlighting the issue but nothing has changed. Could the private bus not be approved? We don’t mind paying towards transport but we have not options now!”

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “Bus Éireann has now issued school transport tickets to over 132,000 students travelling on mainstream services. This is a 12pc increase in tickets issued when compared to the same time last year.

“Under the terms of the scheme, pupils at post-primary level are eligible where they live no less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest school, having regard to language and ethos. With regard to language, in effect this means that a child may bypass their nearest English-medium school to attend their nearest Irish-medium school or Irish unit, or vice versa, they may bypass their nearest Irish-medium school to attend their nearest English-medium school.

“Some families who apply for transport are not eligible, because they are not attending their nearest school and do not meet the distance criteria (or may not have applied or paid/entered medical card details by the closing date). They may have been granted a seat on a bus in the past, if there was a spare seat available.

“It is clearly communicated to all parents that apply that this seat is on a concessionary basis only. If there is a spare seat, it is allocated on a lottery basis but not guaranteed from year to year.”

Cllr Graves concluded: Ghlór na Mara was established as a feeder secondary school to Gaelscoil primary schools across Fingal and as such, the Dept and Bus Eireann should alter the bus route to accommodate a stop in Swords.”

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