Dáil Éireann - Volume 550 - 20 March, 2002

Written Answers. - School Transport.

  864. Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he will take to address the problem of school transport to Seamount College, Kinvara for the Gort area for the families who want their daughters to travel to this all girls second level school; the reason for the delay of five years in making a decision on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9258/02]

  Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The question of the provision of a school transport service for girls from the Gort catchment area to Seamount secondary school, Kinvara, has been examined in my Department on a number of occasions. The key issue in this case is that the Deputy's proposal would be a clear infringement of the catchment boundary unless both schools agree to a single catchment area. This was explained by my predecessor for almost three years and by myself for the last two years.

  As the Deputy is aware, in 1998 a small number of girls from the Kinvara catchment area, who would not ordinarily qualify for transport to another catchment area, were allowed board the bus at the same point as their brothers who had a full transport entitlement to the Gort school, provided no extra State cost was involved. This was done in the unusual circumstances where members of the same household were appropriate to separate catchment areas on the basis of their gender.

  A similar circumstance did not exist in respect of girls from the Gort area who wished to travel to the Kinvara school. In their case there was no question of members of the same household being appropriate to different catchment areas. In addition, there was no existing service to accommodate such pupils. The establishment of a new service would have been an extra cost to the [1480] State. It would also have been a clear infringement of the catchment boundary system, in the absence of the agreement of both schools to a single catchment area. In these circumstances, the most that could be offered to these pupils was catchment boundary facilities from the nearest pick up point in the Kinvara area, provided there was spare accommodation on the bus.

  The management authorities of the Gort school have again been asked to consider the question of having a single catchment area to include post-primary schools in Kinvara and Gort. The result of this would be to allow pupils enrol in either school and once they were three miles from the school of attendance, they would be eligible for school transport. This would resolve the transport problem for pupils who wish to attend either centre under the school transport scheme. The matter will be examined again in the light of the response from the Gort school.