Bus Éireann has said it has issued 121,000 school bus tickets from over 130,000 applications amid "unprecedented demand".

There have been well-publicised delays around the country with issuing school bus tickets to school pupils following the Government's announcement earlier this year that costs are being waived for families because of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

More than 130,000 people have applied for bus services under the scheme, including 44,299 first-time applicants.

More than 100 primary and secondary school students from Ukraine who are living in a holiday village in Wexford, are being left behind by the school transport scheme this week as schools return from the summer break.

The pupils have been staying at the Hookless holiday accommodation on Hook Head for several months and many had been availing of school bus services before the holiday period, but delays in implementing the new school year's transport system have meant they have not yet been able to take up bus places this week.

According to Ramsgrange Community School, where the secondary students are enrolled, this is affecting 44 of their pupils, while it is reported that when the amount supposed to be attending various primary schools in the south Wexford area are taken into account, the total figure is more than 100.

There are fears that it could be weeks before the issue is fully resolved.

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In a statement, Bus Éireann said they operate the scheme on behalf of the Department of Education "which determines the policies governing its operation" and that, once applications for children from Ukraine are received and assessed, a plan is put in place "to provide the most suitable transport solutions" for them.

Bus Éireann said it has secured 272 additional school buses in response to the increased demand and apologised to those who have had difficulties in getting in touch with them and said additional call centre staff are being recruited.

The company added: "Bus Éireann will continue to provide School Transport Scheme services in line with the process that was in place for the 2021/2022 school year for children arriving to Ireland from Ukraine.

"Bus Éireann is working with the Department of Education to provide transport solutions for families involved. Services will be made available as soon as resources are available."

Local people trying to organise lifts for students

Rachel O'Connor, principal of Ramsgrange Community School, has said that this week the school and local people have been trying to organise lifts for affected students at Hookless Village.

"That's not sustainable, going forward," she told RTÉ News.

Ms O'Connor also tweeted about the issue this week, saying that all of the pupils had a bus place in May.

"This is not good enough, schools shouldn't have to collect students and and bring them to school?," she wrote.

As the students are staying in a residential centre, their applications for transport were done by their schools who say they were submitted on time.

Ms O'Connor said they were asked at the beginning of the third week of August to submit lists of pupils who would need the service, and did this within days.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said that Regional Educational and Language Teams have been working through the summer with families who arrived from Ukraine.

Children who needed school transport for the first time for the new school year had to apply but, according to the Department, all Ukrainian children who availed of the service last year also to re-apply for transport because of "significant movement of families" throughout the country.

"School transport can only be arranged once the school transport section have been made aware of transport needs for children arriving from Ukraine," the spokesman said.

"It is important we receive children's details as early as possible."

The department said "every effort will be made" to ensure school transport services are up and running as required.

"However, given the ongoing movement and arrival of families, it may in some cases take some time to arrange services for families as information becomes available for those who require school transport," it said.

The Oireachtas Education Committee has written to the Minister for Education Norma Foley requesting that she attends a meeting to answer urgent questions about school transport.

Committee Chairperson Paul Kehoe said TDs and Senators have been inundated with calls amid the high demand for school bus tickets.

The Fine Gael TD said there was a feeling that many more families had sought tickets this year because they are free of charge and this is leading to a severe shortage of places in some areas.

Meanwhile, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said that students in his constituency in Meath West will be "left at the side of the road" unless capacity is added to school transport.

Many have not yet received bus tickets despite resuming school already, he said.

Mr Tóibín added: "There needs to be a systems of fairness and greater efficiency in ensuring enough school buses and drivers are in place to avoid last minute panic, and the Minister for Education needs to get her act together on this as we can't see a repeat of this scenario year in, year out."

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane