ELEVEN children with special educational needs in Cork can’t get the school transport they are entitled to due to a lack of contractors.
The School Transport Scheme applies to children with special educational needs (SEN) recognised by the Department of Education, and provides them with transport to their nearest mainstream school, special class/school, or unit that is resourced to meet their special educational needs.
In the 2021/22 academic year, more than 2,000 pupils with SEN availed of the transport scheme in Cork.
Bus Éireann has confirmed that there are currently 11 children with special educational needs in Cork who were entitled to school transport since the start of the 2021/22 academic year, but have still not received the service.
A Department of Education spokesperson said that there is a shortage of transport contractors in certain areas in Cork, in particular ones that can offer accessible vehicles.
“The reasons for not accommodating the 11 pupils is due to a lack of contractor availability in these areas. Some of these applicants require wheelchair-accessible transport,” they said.
The demand for contractors to transport SEN pupils is only likely to rise, as a review of the School Transport Scheme ahead of the 2021/22 academic year flagged the increasing need for school transport for SEN pupils.
In 2019/20 the school transport scheme carried over 120,000 pupils in Ireland, including over 14,200 SEN pupils, at a cost of €219m.
The number of pupils with special educational needs availing of the school transport scheme has seen a large increase and it is projected that the number of pupils with SEN across the country availing of the scheme will rise to over 20,000 by 2027.