Thursday, 27 January 2011

EMAs

My latest column in the Cornish Guardian looks at the debate surrounding the Government decision to abolish Education Maintenance Allowance payments. The article is reproduced below:

We are indeed fortunate to live in the United Kingdom, where our standard of living is so much higher than in many other countries around the world.

But is the Government doing enough to tackle inequality in society? And, in particular is it doing enough to help young people from poorer families succeed in life?

A worrying report from the charitable Sutton Trust has shown that children educated at private schools are 55 times more likely to attend Cambridge / Oxford Universities, than children who received free school meals in their youth.

This situation is unlikely to be helped by the decision of the Government to axe the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) last week.

This allowance was introduced by the previous government to encourage young people from less-well-off backgrounds to stay in education after the age of sixteen.

Its aim was to help young people achieve more and better qualifications, so they could benefit from well-paid jobs or get to university.

Depending on the income of their parents, students received payments of £10, £20 or £30 a week. I understand that the allowances were intended to cover the cost of course books, equipment and transport, but could be spent however the student chose.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron made it clear that he had "no plans" to scrap the EMA, but has performed a quick U-turn on that.

The Government is now stating that the scheme is expensive, that the grants were "poorly targeted" and claim that “90% of young people receiving the allowance would continue in education even if the grant was stopped.”

By contrast, opposition spokespeople have described the removal of the grant as an “attack on the aspirations of young people” which "kicks away the ladder of opportunity."

And a survey conducted by the University and College Union with the Association of Colleges found that 70% of EMA recipients said they would have to drop out of their course if the grant was cut.

There has been some stlited talk of alternatives to the grant but none have been agreed, while other reports have suggested that the cancellation of the contract to distribute EMA will cost the Government a £40 million penalty.

I may be a cynic, but isn’t it sad that the new Government (led by a Cabinet mostly educated at fee-paying schools and Oxford / Cambridge) are failing to understand and act upon the needs of students from poorer backgrounds than their own.

1 comment:

Walking Bear said...

Will MK actually be organising any protests? It should. And make sure its advertised well.

... since a blog does not a campaign make, but worthwhile it would be.