BY SEÁN P. FEENY
THE Finn Valley School Transport Action Group is holding a protest march tomorrow (Saturday) to voice its anger over changes to be implemented in the Finn Valley as part of the government’s Post Primary School Transport scheme.
If changes are implemented any families living after the boundary line of Liscooley will not qualify for a bus ticket to St. Columba’s College or Finn Valley College.
This change would mean that the children starting school in September will have to travel to a post primary school in Raphoe. As a result, concerned parents set up the action group to highlight the issue.
Chairperson, Mr Donal Foy said: “Raphoe is not and never has been a town that the people of the Finn Valley go to for schooling or indeed other community activities. Stranorlar and Ballybofey has been the natural route up the Finn Valley for schooling, athletics, etc.”
Mr Foy said a total of 29 children are affected this September from three primary schools in the area who still have to choose a post primary education centre.
“Over the next five years a total of 191 will be affected. Deele College Vocational School, Raphoe (capacity 425) is already oversubscribed and at present has 563 pupils of which only three students travel from the Finn Valley area,” he said.
With the support of Donegal deputies, senators and councillors the group requested a meeting with of State for Training and Skills, Ciaran Cannon TD.
“In the first instant, he refused to meet a delegation and advised that the policy change ratified in the 2010 Budget will stand,” said Mr Foy.
“This will have a huge impact on our small rural community as historically all students have travelled to Stranorlar/Ballybofey since the introduction of school transport over 40 years ago, and I cannot see why this matter cannot be dealt with given the circumstances.”
Mr Foy said if this proposed change in the School Transport Scheme goes ahead, it will split families in their community.
“There are numerous families affected over the coming years where siblings will not be able to follow in their brothers/sisters’ footsteps, where one child goes one direction to Stranorlar and this year’s child is forced to travel in a totally different direction, adding to the already stressful transition from Primary to Post Primary education.”
Mr Foy said there is also no cost savings for this new proposal for their area. “This has been costed and the transport costs are the same for both routes.
“There is only 2-3 km of a difference between existing route (which is on a National Primary Road) and the proposed new route (secondary road over hills).”
This matter, Mr Foy said, raised concerns over child safety. “The VFM Assessment that the Fianna Fail Government carried out in 2009 did not take into account the danger that the children would face having to travel on secondary, non-treated roads during winter and this is the case here.
“The road from the village of Castlefin to Raphoe (proposed new route) is narrow, full of potholes and has a small old bridge which, in my opinion, is very dangerous to manoeuvre in a car, never mind a 52 seater coach.
“Time spent negotiating this narrow road has not been taken into account either,” he said.
The protest march will commence at 2pm from Navenny Car Park, Ballybofey and make its way across to Stranorlar.
“We would be most grateful if you could attend this protest and give your support to the people and children of the Finn Valley,” said Mr Foy.