Belfast Telegraph

Free school transport under threat for some Northern Ireland pupils due to 'financial climate'

The Department of Education has said that free school transport in Northern Ireland could be set to change due to the current "very difficult financial climate".

Pupils in Northern Ireland currently receive free school transport if they live more than two miles from their nearest suitable school under the age off 11, or three miles over the age of 11. The policy has been in place for over 20 years.

The department is conducting a review "to ensure that home to school transport is fit for purpose and is sustainable over the long term".

Any decision on changes to the current system would have to be signed off by a minister, with no Stormont Assembly currently in place.

Around 84,000 pupils are currently eligible for transport assistance which is around 26% of the school population. 

The cost of home to school transport provision is approximately £81 million per year.

The review will not consider home to school transport for children with a statement of special educational needs which specifies a special transport need.

A survey from the department aims to engage parents, children, school staff and the wider public on the issue.

The public consultation is not expected to take place until early 2020.

"This process of engagement is about asking all stakeholders if they think the current policy is helping the right pupils within the available resources. The review is about gathering ideas and views on the shape of a future policy," a Department of Education spokesperson said.

“The review will focus on ensuring a revised policy will deliver value for money, including the contribution that home to school transport provision could make to the delivery of a broad range of Programme for Government outcomes. Not all options would necessarily involve a reduction in expenditure or the number of pupils in receipt of home to school transport."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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