Bus blues | 

Ukrainian kids miss first day at school in Wexford after buses fail to show up

Principal Rachel O'Connor said there were over 200 families over at Hookless and “very few of them have private vehicles for obvious reasons”


Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Ukrainian children as young as five as well as some first year students missed their first day at school in Wexford after buses failed to show up.

More than 200 Ukrainian families who fled the war have been living in the Hookless holiday accommodation on Hook Head in recent months.

Some 100 primary and secondary students had been availing of school bus services before the summer break.

However, delays in implementing the new school year's transport system meant that many were left behind.

The principal of one of the schools said they had no idea there was an issue with school transport until it emerged that none of the students due to arrive by bus from Hookless had turned up.

A total of 44 second-level-age students are enrolled in Ramsgrange Community School but when those attending various primary schools in the south Wexford area are taken into account, the total figure is more than 100.

Principal Rachel O'Connor said there were over 200 families over at Hookless and “very few of them have private vehicles for obvious reasons”.

“We had to go and arrange lifts for them all,” she told The New Ross Standard. “We rang the bus inspector who said they hadn’t sanctioned school transport.

“They said they hadn’t received the information about the students, saying it could take three weeks to arrange something.”

Ms O’Connor said 33 students who attended Ramsgrange Community School during the last term had school places then, and yet were not on the system for a place for the 2022/2023 term.

“The issue lies with the new promotion of free bus transport. There are 45,000 more applications than there were this time last year. There are students all over the county affected.”

Ms O’Connor, who is also President of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, added: “The intention was good but the reality is there is a lack of buses and drivers. Now you have some very stressed out parents and incredibly disappointed students. It’s an awful situation.”

And there are concerns that it could be weeks before the issue is fully resolved because of wider nationwide problems implementing the school transport service.

Ms O'Connor also tweeted about the issue this week, saying that all of the pupils had a bus place in May.

"This is not good enough, schools shouldn't have to collect students and bring them to school?," she wrote.

There have been other well-publicised delays around the country with issuing school bus tickets to pupils, following the Government's announcement earlier this year that costs are being waived for families because of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

More than 130,000 people have applied for bus services under the scheme, including 44,299 first-time applicants.

In a statement to RTE, Bus Éireann said they operate the scheme on behalf of the Department of Education "which determines the policies governing its operation".

They added that once applications for children from Ukraine are received and assessed, a plan is put in place "to provide the most suitable transport solutions" for them.

"Bus Éireann will make every effort to ensure school transport services are up and running as they are required," the statement said.

"However, given the ongoing movement and arrival of families, it may in some cases take some time to arrange services for families as information becomes available for those who require school transport."

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