Primary school transport scheme

Introduction

The school transport scheme provides transport for children who live 3.2 km or more from their local primary school. The scheme is funded by the Department of Education.

Application for the School Transport Scheme 2021-2022 is closed. The first half-payment or payment in full was due by 31 July 2021. You can pay using the Bus Eireann payment portal – see ‘Rates’ below.

If you paid a fee for school transport for the 2020-2021 school year and could not use it because of school closures due to COVID-19 restrictions, you may be due a refund. – see ‘Rates’ below.

COVID-19 and school transport

The Department of Education has provided information for parents on the school transport rules during COVID-19 for the 2021-2022 school year.

The rules include:

  • Not to use school transport if you are displaying symptoms
  • Maintain physical distancing while waiting for transport
  • Always sit in pre-assigned seating and next to a sibling or child from your class group (this should be the same child at all times)
  • Use hand sanitiser on boarding the bus
  • Keep to public health guidance on good respiratory hygiene at all times while waiting for and on-board the bus
  • Get off the bus one by one in an orderly way
  • All post-primary students and children aged 13 and over must wear a face covering while waiting for and on-board the bus. This does not apply to children who, for medical or special educational needs, cannot wear a face covering. Your child will not be refused access to the bus if they forget their face covering. However, your child’s travel facilities may be reviewed if they repeatedly fail to wear a face covering

Bus drivers will wear face coverings and face visors when children are boarding and getting off the bus or when social distancing is not possible.

If there is a suspected case of COVID-19 on the bus, school transport staff will contact you immediately to arrange to have your child collected. Your child will be separated from other children on board the bus and your child will be assured that help is on the way.

School bus escorts for children with special education needs will wear face coverings or face visors as appropriate for the special education needs of your child.

The Department has written to parents who use the School Transport Scheme asking parents to make sure their children know about the new rules.

Read our document about school during the COVID-19.

Refunds due to school closures for School Transport Scheme 2020-2021

If you paid a fee for school transport for the 2020-2021 school year and could not use it because of school closures due to COVID-19 restrictions, you may have been due a refund.

Bus Eireann has issued a refund for school closures from 6 January until 26 March 2021. If you did not pay the fee for this period, you are not due a refund.

The Department of Education is processing any grants due for 2020-2021 school year based on statements of attendance provided by schools.

You can find more information about School Transport Scheme 2020-2021 refunds on the Bus Eireann website.

Rules

Who is eligible?

In order to qualify for school transport, a child must be aged between 4 and 12 years and living 3.2 km or more from the nearest suitable national school.

Children with special needs are also eligible for free transport to and from special schools and to special classes.

If there are spare seats available, children who are not eligible can be carried on school transport.

Bus Eireann provides a list of FAQs about the School Transport Grant.

Schools

The Department of Education decides what the nearest suitable school is. If a child is attending a school that has more than one teacher and there is a one-teacher school nearer the home, that fact will not usually disqualify the child from using the school transport scheme.

Children attending multi-denominational schools or Gaelscoileanna (Irish-speaking schools) are eligible if they meet the distance requirements to their school. They are not disqualified because there is another national school nearer to them. There are also special arrangements for Protestant children attending Protestant schools and children living in remote areas.

Pick-up points

The scheme is not a door-to-door service. Parents/guardians are responsible for bringing their children to the nearest pick-up point to avail of the service. Generally, routes are planned so pupils don't have to travel more than 2.4 km to their nearest pick-up point.

If there is no school transport service available, you may be able to get a grant towards the costs of private transport for a child who cannot get to school without transport due to an illness or disability.

Establishing and retaining a school transport service

There must be enough children to use the service. This means that there must be a daily average (over a school term) of at least 10 eligible children in a distinct area attending their nearest suitable school.

Closed or merged schools

The following rules applied in the school year 2011-2012.

  • Children in a closed school area who are living within 3.2 km from a ‘school of amalgamation’ are no longer eligible for transport to that school, but they may apply for concessionary transport if there are seats available
  • Current pupils who are eligible for transport under the Central/Closed School Rule (CSR)*, and who live 3.2 km or more from their school of amalgamation will remain eligible for the rest of their primary schooling

*In the school year 2010-2011 when 2 or more primary schools merged, the children for whom the closed school would have been the nearest could only have transport to the school that was the result of the merger. Under the CSR some children living less than 3.2 km from such a ‘school of amalgamation’ were eligible for school transport.

From the 2012-2013 school year, eligibility based on the CSR ceased for all new pupils entering primary schools. This may mean that where there is now a school that is nearer than the school of amalgamation, siblings in some families may have school transport eligibility to different schools from the 2012-2013 school year onward.

The Department of Education publishes detailed information on the conditions governing the primary school transport scheme (pdf).

Remote area grants

Remote area grants are payable by the Department as a contribution towards private transport arrangements for eligible pupils for whom no transport service is available. These grants may also be paid for eligible pupils who live 3.2 km or more from the nearest pick-up point for school transport.

Rates

Children eligible for school transport

There is a charge of €100 per year for each eligible child, with a maximum of €220 for each family who only uses the primary school transport scheme. For families who also have eligible children using the post-primary transport scheme, a maximum of €650 per family per year will be charged.

Eligible children who hold a medical card do not have to pay the charge.

Children not eligible for school transport

If there are spare seats available, a child who is not eligible can use school transport at a charge of €100 per year. The maximum annual amount for a family is €220.

Children who hold a medical card, but who are not eligible for school transport, will still have to pay this charge.

Payment of charge

You have 2 payment options, you can:

  • Pay the charge in full on or before 31 July 2021 or
  • Pay half the charge on or before 31 July 2021 and then make regular payments to clear the balance on or before 26 November 2021

Medical cards and payment: Between May and August 2021 Bus Eireann could not verify medical cards. If you used a medical card last year, your medical card information has rolled forward and has been applied as payment for the 2021-2022 school year. If you made a payment on your account while it was not possible to verify medical cards, you will get a refund.

From 20 August 2021, you can pay for tickets through the Bus Eireann payment portal and medical cards can be validated. However, any applications or payments made after 31 July 2021 are deemed late and allocation of a ticket cannot be guaranteed. Refunds will be made if a transport ticket cannot be allocated.

Read more about using a medical card for payment on the Bus Eireann website.

How to apply

The scheme is operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. If your child is enrolling in national school for the first time, you can apply for school transport online on the Bus Éireann's website.

Applications for the school year 2021-2022 are closed.

For children who are eligible for school transport and are using it already, Bus Éireann will contact their parents/guardians about transport for the next school year.

For enquiries about timetables, pick-up points, routes and applications for transport grants you should contact your local Bus Éireann school transport office.

Applications for the remote area grant

You should apply in writing directly to the School Transport section of the Department of Education at the address below.

Appeals

If you wish to appeal a decision on your application for school transport, you should download the appeal form (pdf) and send the completed form to the School Transport Appeals Board c/o the Department of Education at the address below.

Where to apply

Department of Education

School Transport Section
Portlaoise Road
Tullamore
Offaly
Ireland

Tel: (057) 932 5466/7
Fax: (057) 932 5477

Page edited: 3 September 2021