Parents around the country are feeling let down as thousands of children have been unable to get a place on a school bus this term, Sinn Féin has said.

Speaking in the Dáil, Longford-Westmeath TD Sorca Clarke said the situation was an "utter mess" and the Government had failed to plan for increased demand following the decision to provide free school transport this year.

Sinn Féin has called for an extra 10,000 school bus places.

Ms Clarke accused Minister for Education Norma Foley of hiding from the problem.

Responding, the Tánaiste said the Government is aware of the concerns of parents and it has been the biggest issue for rural TDs in recent weeks.

Leo Varadkar said an additional 21,000 places were provided, but he conceded that it may not have been enough.

The Tánaiste indicated too that next year there might be a "nominal fee" for a school bus ticket.

There was an unprecedented number of applications for the School Transport Scheme this year after the Government announced that school transport fees would be waived amidst the spiralling cost-of-living crisis.

Minister Foley said it was a "significant investment" with families making a saving of €500.

However, many parents and local politicians say the School Transport Scheme is now in chaos as children who used the service for years were being refused a ticket because they were no longer deemed eligible.

There were a record 130,000 applications this year, with almost a third from first-time applicants.

This figure includes 44,299 new applications as well as roll-overs from the previous school year.

Last month, Bus Éireann said it had issued 121,000 school bus tickets amid "unprecedented demand".

It said every effort is being made in offices across the country to source extra drivers and buses when they become available.

The School Transport Scheme gives priority to eligible pupils, for example those attending the nearest school, and concessionary tickets are allocated to other students if there are seats available.

Many parents who have been paying for concessionary tickets for years have received emails informing them that they have not been successful in obtaining school transport this year.

Where the number of applications for school transport on a concessionary basis exceeds the number of seats available, Bus Éireann determines the allocation of tickets using a computerised random process.

The results are recorded and held in each local office.