RESTRICTIONS on access to school bus transport in North Clare are causing hardship and inconvenience for many parents and students in the Corofin area, a recent meeting of local councillors was told.
Councillor Joe Killeen, a former primary school principal and ex-president of the INTO, called on the West Clare Municipal District committee to contact the government on the matter and to ask them to redefine the catchment area for the secondary schools in Ennistymon. “Such a move”, he said, “would make pupils from Corofin eligible for school transport on a phased basis.”
The Fianna Fáil member noted that, currently, the Department of Education provides subsidised school transport for post-primary pupils who live more than 4.8 kilometres away from the appropriate school. Because schools in Ennis are closer to those living in Corofin, students currently only have ‘concessionary’ status on school busses to Ennistymon.
“We have had a huge increase in the primary school population,” Councillor Killeen noted. “Now, as we’ve seen, there have been big difficulties accessing secondary school places in Ennis. The schools in Ennistymon have a great reputation and are attractive to students. Up to recently, there’s been no great problem facilitating them because busses have been able to take concessionary students from Corofin, as well as the eligible students who live closer. Now, however, busses going to Ennistymon are full and can’t cater for all of the Corofin pupils.”
Last August, after students faced long waiting times for confirmation of places on school busses, many were refused, Councillor Killeen explained. “That situation has left many parents having to drive back and over to Ennistymon twice a day, a 40-minute round trip – before going to work. At least one parent was in a situation where they had to drop their child off and then drive to Dublin.”
The Ennistymon Area councillor noted that, following considerable controversy, a system has been mooted to regulate access to secondary schools in Ennis. “There are proposals to change the enrolment system and make it more like the CAO,” he said. “In the meantime, we are looking for catchment area changes so that students from Corofin are eligible for bus tickets to Ennistymon and are not just considered concessionary. The long and the short of it is that there are students who have applied for school places in Ennistymon by choice and they can’t get a place on the bus. Bus Éireann needs to change its policy to sort this out and I am proposing that we write the Department of Education to ask them to make the necessary changes.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Shane Talty. “There is no question here that this proposed change would threaten any other schools,” he said. “This change would not undermine the viability of Ennis schools. We should be giving more students the option of accessing Ennistymon secondary schools and we need a change in the ticketing policy.”
In a written reply, John O’Malley, Senior Executive Officer, said that with members agreement, contact would be made on the matter with the Department of Education and Skills.