The Malta Independent 14 November 2018, Wednesday

Updated: Parents to ‘save’ €700 per year per child as school transport agreement signed

Albert Galea Saturday, 8 September 2018, 11:54 Last update: about 3 months ago

Parents will be saving €700 per year per child as the government reached a deal for the provision of free school transport to all schools.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said in a press conference announcing the deal that this was the most important aspect when speaking of the financials of this deal.  

Two contracts have been signed, one for state schools and the other for Church and private schools.

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The contract for state schools is valid for five years, with eight operators involved. A second contract, with 18 operators, was signed for Church and private schools and is also valid for five years.

Operators are to be paid directly by the ministry, and as a result parents need not pay anything.

There are 10 other operators who have shown interest in the second contract as well, even now that the deal has been signed. These 10 could soon join the 18 already signed on to provide transport for Church and private schools. In fact the call for this contract will remain open and operators are still free to register their interest for it through the web portal www.schooltransport.edu.mt, which will be launched on Monday.

Parents can also make use of the same web portal to see a list of all the operators who have signed the deal.

Furthermore, parents will have the opportunity to download a free app as well.  This app will be able to trace when a child gets on or off the transport van.  It will do so through a fob which will be given to each student for placement on his or her backpack, and also a fob which each van will be fitted with.

Bartolo said the government wanted to provide transport to all students, but at the same time make sure that those operators are well compensated for the service being given.

“As far as I know, nowhere in the world does a government intervene to provide financial backing to non-state operators for scholastic transport. We are one of the highest in the world with non-state schooling.”

To move 42,000 students across the island in a specific time range is no easy feat, Bartolo said. He hoped that with this agreement there will be less private vehicles on Maltese roads in the hours before schools open or when lessons finish. He noted that if 10 or 15,000 students can be transported, then that would mean that there are already fewer vehicles in certain locations during this time frame.

Asked whether the service will cater for all the students on the island, Bartolo was cautious in his response saying that whilst the government was optimistic, it must also be realistic and recognise certain limitations.  Bartolo said that his ministry will be working with the operators to overcome limitations such as those of a lack of drivers.  He said that there were some operators who wanted to add vehicles to their fleet, but were unable to do so due to a lack of drivers.  Bartolo said that the ministry will be working with Cabinet to reduce the bureaucratic restrictions that there are currently in place which may be discouraging people from becoming drivers.

Bartolo expressed his satisfaction that, after 85 separate meetings over the course of the past 12 months, a deal had been reached, saying it had been a long process but that in the end the goals that the government had in mind had been reached.

PL reaction: 'A government that keeps its promises'

In a statement following the announcement of the deal, the Labour Party said that the deal was evidence of a government that keeps its word.

The party said that this deal confirmed the government's commitment both to the reduction of traffic and to investing in students and families.  The statement read that with this deal, thousands of families will be free of a yearly expense whilst operators will also be taking advantage of a well-deserved rise in income.

The Labour Party lamented on the Nationalist Party for "trying to hinder this deal and to sow uncertainty whilst the discussions were ongoing".  They said that this was evidence of an opposition that is more focused on partisan politics than the interests of families.  The party also noted that despite what the main Opposition party was saying, the government had also started investing in new schools and in the refurbishment of old ones.

 

 

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