More children leaving earlier in morning to get to school

Children with long commutes or in need of pre-school care travelling earlier than before

Rising numbers of schoolchildren are leaving home earlier in the morning for long commutes, or to access early-morning school activities such as sports or study, latest figures indicate.

While classes commence in most primary and secondary schools at around 9am, before-school activities are proving more popular among children in commuting families where both parents are working.

A large number of primary schools in Dublin and other urban areas have started providing supervised play on site from before 8am, as well as after-school and homework clubs in the late afternoon and early evening.

At second level, many fee-paying schools in particular are opening their doors earlier to provide study or sports training before class.


Latest official figures compiled by the Central Statistics Office confirm that children are getting up earlier to leave for school.

A breakdown of the 2016 census, for example, shows more than 20,000 pupils are on the road from between 6 and 7.30 am in morning, an increase of almost 40 per cent on the 2011 census. A large proportion are based in commuter-belt counties.

The average time it took to get to school was just under an hour for those who left before 6.30am, falling to just under 40 minutes for those who left between 7 and 7.30am and 11 minutes for those leaving between 8.30 and 9am.

Census figures also show the car is becoming more popular among second-level students for getting to school.

Just over four in 10 secondary students travelled to school as a passenger by car, up 16 per cent on 2011.

Over 42 per cent of rural secondary students were reliant on the bus to get to school.

Overall, the latest census shows commuting times rose in every county and the national average commuting time in April 2016 was 28.2 minutes, up from 26.6 minutes in 2011.

Commuters in counties bordering Dublin had the longest average commuting time, with those in Meath and Wicklow travelling for almost 35 minutes.

Almost 200,000 commuters, or one in 10, spent an hour or more commuting to work, an increase of almost 50,000 (31 per cent ) on 2011.

Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington in Co Louth – where 28 per cent of workers were commuting an hour or more – had the highest percentage, followed by Skerries, Co Dublin and Greystones-Delgany, Co Wicklow.

In 2016, there were almost 82,000 parents with children under 15 who spent an hour or more commuting to work.

Of these, just over 43,000 were parents of pre-school children, an increase of 23 per cent on 2011.

In Wicklow, Meath, Laois, Kildare and Westmeath, one in five parents of under-four year olds had a commute of over an hour.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent