Additional funding has been made available in the budget to provide free school transport to children who had concessionary tickets for bus transport last year and who had applied in time for inclusion in this year's scheme.

This year has seen increased pressure for a place on a school bus after the number of those entitled to free transport rose following the widening of criteria.

Last year, 103,000 children were eligible and this year it rose to 125,400.

The increase has left many children who had been granted concessionary places in previous years high and dry.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said today that the precise cost of accommodating all such children was impossible to predict at this stage, because the service is demand-led.

She was also unable to say when precisely children left in this situation could hope to secure a place, because different circumstances pertained depending on the locality.

The budget also included an additional €10 million to pay for fuel for school buses.

Cost of living funding for schools

The budget included an additional €90 million for schools as a once-off measure to help them address the rising cost of living.

This is to be paid to schools at a rate of approximately 40% of their standard or enhanced capitation rate.

Free school books

Norma Foley said that schools would be free to spend the additional funding being provided to pay for all school text books for primary school children in a way that works for them.

Many schools already run very efficient book rental schemes.

The minister confirmed that schools will be free to continue any relationship they may have with local schoolbook providers.

An additional €47 million is being provided to fund what is an historic development.

It will bring Ireland into line with other countries, both wealthy and poor, who already provide text books free of charge to children.