DUP MLA Sydney Anderson has expressed concerns over proposed changes to school transport arrangements.
“Eligibility for transport assistance for pupils attending mainstream schools is based on the distance from the pupil’s home to the nearest suitable school within a given category,” said Mr Anderson.
“In four of the five legacy education and library board areas in Northern Ireland, including our own area which was part of the former SELB, eligibility for the provision of school transport was measured from the nearest available door of the pupil’s home to the nearest available door of the school.
“However, the legacy South Eastern ELB measured eligibility for the provision of school transport differently to the other areas by interpreting the measurement as from the centre road point where the pupil’s home meets the public highway to the centre point of the nearest gate of the school using the most available route. These two forms of measurement in relation to assessment for eligibility for transport assistance have been known as ‘door to door’ and ‘gate to gate’.
“The Education Authority are now proposing to revise the policy to determine eligibility for transport assistance based on the ‘gate to gate’ measurement for pupils starting mainstream schools in September 2016. Whilst all pupils who currently receive transport assistance based on the ‘door to door’ measurement will not be impacted by the proposed changes as well as pupils with a special transport need, it is estimated that approximately 200 children starting school next year will be negatively impacted .
“It will have a major impact on children who live in rural areas and whilst they may previously have been eligible for transport assistance, they will no longer have access to such assistance.”