Education Maintenance Allowance

Posted: 24/01/2011 by 4WD Foundation in Education, Politics
Tags: , , ,

On Wednesday the Labour Party used what is known as an Opposition Day Debate to call upon the Governments decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance. The motion put forward for debate was “That this House believes that disadvantaged young people should gain greater access to further and higher education; recognises the valuable role that the education maintenance allowance (EMA) has played in supporting young people from less well-off backgrounds to participate and succeed in education; further recognises how EMA has supported choice for students in post-16 education, allowing them to travel to the best institution for their studies, which is of particular importance in rural areas; further notes that EMA is used by the majority of recipients to fund travel to college, as well as books and equipment, and allows recipients to focus on their studies rather than taking a part-time job; notes that EMA has been retained in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; further notes research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies stating that EMA costs are completely offset by its benefits in raising participation; further notes the inquiry into educational access announced by the Education Select Committee; and calls on the Government to rethink its decision on EMA, retaining practical support to improve access to, interest in and participation in further and higher education.”


258 MPs voted for the motion to be passed  – this would have ensured that EMA remained in some format, however 319 Coailiton MPs voted against the motion and the Government’s decision to scrap EMA remains. This is of great concern as it highlights another broken promise by the Coalition as the Prime Minister and Education Secretary of State, Michael Gove both personally pledged to keep EMA prior to the election last year!  N.B. The entire debate can be read or watched here link, my personal favourite contribution was from Labour MP Barry Sheerman who spoke with his usual eloquence and compassion.

Yet, if we are to follow the Government’s current line of argument, it would appear that most people currently receiving EMA would continue to remain in Education even when it is removed. Such a statement could make many people wonder what all the fuss is about in the first place, especially those from more affluent households who are more likely to remain in education than those from less affluent households anyway. Conversely, new research published last week by the University and College Lecturers Union (UCLU) suggests that 7 out of 10 EMA recipients will drop out if EMA is removed! Although admittedly the media reporting is not assisted by some MPs claiming that young people are spending their EMA on going to the cinema and their Blackberry bill rather than on books and travel.

Indeed, even the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published an assessment that concludes that EMA effectively covers its own costs! The IFS counters the Government’s argument that the impact generated by the EMA does not justify the £560 million spent on the policy. “The simple cost-benefit analysis mentioned above suggests that even taking into account the level of deadweight that was found, the costs of EMA are completely offset… Moreover, even if the EMA had no impact on educational outcomes it would still represent a transfer of resources to low-income households with children, which may in its own right represent a valuable policy objective.”  http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/4129

The Government has talked about the possibility of alternative scheme to EMA but this is unfortunately one tenth of the size of the amount of funding that was going into EMA and has been closed to new applicants. This situation is clearly of utmost concern in young people’s minds at the moment – many interviews of young protestors highlight their anger at the current situation but also their frustration about the lack of options going forward.  The times are ripe for innovative ideas that allow young people to remain in education and such innovations potentially carry a high amount of political, economic and social weight! This is where 4WD comes in…. or rather this is where you come in!

Tell us your experiences of the EMA, we want to know what it means to you…..

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Comments
  1. Matt says:

    What about the students who don’t qualify for EMA? I had to work all through college to earn £20-30 a week to fund studies/travel. I fail to see how EMA was ever fair. It had to be scrapped. Everyone or no-one.

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