Councillor berates SELB over proposed school bus cuts
May 18, 2010
By Brónagh Murphy
Crossmaglen Sinn Féin councillor, Terry Hearty, has berated the Southern Education & Library Board’s Transport Management Division regarding its plans to introduce cuts to the school bus service at Clonalig Primary School.
It has emerged that the SELB plans to implement changes to the school’s free bus service from this September. It’s believed the proposed changes will lead to dozens of children – who, at present, can avail of bus transport to and from school – losing this service.
Mr Hearty pointed out that the SELB intends to remove the bus which has serviced the school for almost forty years.
“It has long been known that Clonalig School is situated on one of the most dangerous roads in the area yet it appears that the decision has been taken to withdraw the route,” Mr Hearty said.
“When the Transport Management Division last targeted the area they removed over seventy children from school buses and they informed me that they made savings of £18,000 – which I would like to see on paper.
“If this is correct it would mean that they saved £257 per child per year. To save £257 on one child on one of the most dangerous roads in the area is an act of madness,” he claims.
Mr Hearty says the dangers posed to schoolchildren on the busy road are all too obvious and have not lessened with the passing years.
“Back over 38 years ago the buses were introduced on the Concession Road because it was too dangerous for children to walk on. We all know how much the traffic has increased since then, not to mention the volume of traffic using the slip road onto the motorway,” he said.
“We all know that budgets are tight even though the Minister provided additional money for transport. 38 years ago money was even tighter but children’s safety had a higher priority with the Department but now it is all about saving money. Has child safety gone out the window?”
In response to Councillor Hearty’s claims, an SELB spokesman said free transport will continue to be made available to all children who are eligible to receive it. However a number of children who live inside the distance limit from the school, and who had been availing of the service, would no longer be permitted to do so.
“In accordance with Department of Education guidance on School Transport the SELB has a statutory obligation to provide transport assistance to eligible pupils. Where spare seats exist, the Board may at its discretion, allow non-eligible pupils to travel on school transport services. The Board is required to ensure the method of assisting pupils is suitable with regard to efficiency and economy,” the spokesman said.
“In 2008 the Board notified parents that concessionary transport would no longer be available for non-eligible pupils. Following a series of meetings with parents and local representatives the Board agreed to postpone the removal of concessionary transport until the completion of a major roadwork scheme in the area.
“The Board understands that these road-works have now been completed and has written again to parents to advise that concessionary transport for non-eligible pupils will not be available from September 2010,” he added.