Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances

The idiots who stormed Millbank Tower yesterday and threw a fire extinguisher from the roof have rightly been condemned for their violent actions. The agitators owe an apology to the primarily peaceful students who protested in London yesterday against education cuts. The media focus has inevitably turned to policing – ignoring the important issues at stake.

A fair bit is known about the impact of rising tuition fees and the cuts to university teaching budgets. Much less is known about the £500 million cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

EMAs of £10, £20 or £30 per week are received by 635,000 14-to-19 year olds from families with an income below £30,810. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows attainment at GCSE and A-level by recipients of EMA has risen by 5 to 7 percentage points since its introduction, and by even more for those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods. Research by RCU Market Research Services found that, “the analysis of learner data seems to provide evidence that EMA has had a positive impact on the retention, achievement and success of certain groups of learners.”

Neither the Conservative nor Lib Dem manifesto made a single mention of cuts to EMAs and the Coalition Programme was also silent. But as reported by Left Foot Forward in January, David Cameron told a Cameron Direct event in Hammersmith:

“We’ve looked at Educational Maintenance Allowances and we haven’t announced any plan to get rid of them. They do often if you go to schools and ask people what they think of them and ask young people themselves, they get quite a mixed reception actually because some people can see them as a bit divisive, but no we don’t have any plans to get rid of them.

At the time Left Foot Forward was heavily criticised by blogger Iain Dale for suggesting that this amounted to a U-turn from the more negative approach to EMAs articulated by Michael Gove and Chris Grayling. Dale pointed to a Guardian article outlining that “The Conservatives say they have no specific plans to reform the EMA” and an exchange in the House of Commons where Michael Gove had said he was “absolutely” in favour of EMAs. But like Lib Dem voters over tuition fees, students have been duped by the Tories on EMAs.

Shadow education secretary, Andy Burnham, recorded a message yesterday on EMAs. He told the Save EMA campaign:

“It is utterly disgraceful really that the Government have just said that they will chop [EMAs]; David Cameron, Michael Gove both gave absolutely clear commitments before the election that they would keep EMA and the fact that they have gone back on that word I think will be seen as a bitter betrayal of young people.”

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28 Responses to “Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances”

  1. Shane Chowen

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  2. dontplaymepayme

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/9vQhWI

  3. Melissa Nicole Harry

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  4. JulianaFarha

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  5. Will Straw

    @shanechowen Good to meet you too and good luck with the campaign. Thought this might be of interest http://bit.ly/bvD76i

  6. Will Straw

    Yesterday's violence should be condemned. But it doesnt remove the damage caused by educ cuts incl to EMAs http://bit.ly/bvD76i

  7. James Mills

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  8. James Mills

    Good post by @wdjstraw on yesterday's protest and the government lies on EMA http://bit.ly/9heMlg @SaveEMA #SaveEMA

  9. Bethany W-Bradley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  10. Tristan Osborne

    A very well written piece. Our CLP is opposing the cuts to the EMA and would highlight the independent campaign at this site where you can sign a petition (under Join).

    http://saveema.co.uk/

    In addition to cuts to the EMA we are also seeing cuts to the ESOL budgets. Coupled with the hike in tution fees we can now see the systematic targeting of poorer families but this current government.

    The future of this country depends on an educated workforce. We are now a service-based economy specialising in high-intelligence products such as financial services, marketing, advertising, advisory. This government is undermining our economic competitiveness for an ideological agenda to marketise and undermine education.

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Will – Labour needs to be very careful on this matter and in no way am I associating the party with the mindless violence that occurred yesterday.

    With the Poll Tax riots in the 1980’s the tax affected every single person in the country and in the US students in the 1960’s rioted over racist issues – big picture stuff. Those protests changed things.

    But this one seems to be for selfish reasons and it will affect so few individuals (percentage of population wise) that the public will not support it. If riots occur when the unions are (inevitably) on strike it will hurt Labour big time.

    That same picture of the thug kicking in the window yesterday was on every single national newspaper this morning (even the Star featured it next to an X Factor story) yet the student grievances were not even mentioned alongside the picture.

    Yesterday the message was lost and if Labour aligns itself too closely with the students all that will be remembered will be the riots and the unfairness of the thing by people who think the dustman shouldn’t pay for the doctor’s education.

    With Housing Benefit changes (supported as we know by Ed Miliband) and Child Benefit for millionaires and now this Labour seems to be aligning itself with unworthy causes and needs to be very very careful…

  12. Rory Natkiel

    Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/dp4MSA via @wdjstraw

  13. Anton Howarth

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  14. Ralph Baldwin

    Will,

    Agreed on EMA. Though I do not in any way shape or form condone violence, I am afraid to accuse the angry of being stupid is rather short-sighted.

    Remember nobody is representing students currently. They have been lied to by both Labour and the Lib Dems. Students are not stupid I am afraid they simply have no representation in Parliament.

    One MP condemning the violence carried out by the minority of students on the Daily politics pretty much dismissed the peaceful demonstration too saying that battles would be fought in Parliament….erm what battle was that? Parliament has become an elitist consensus though of course using the term “elite” to describe it is a massive misnomer as it highlights a very real lack of understanding of some pretty basic fundamental democratic and constitutional principles.

    I digress.

    The point is democracy does not exist for many of these students, an MP has basically said that unlike France demonstrations are no longer a legitimate democratic way of doing things.

    So the only conclusion one can reach is that representational democracy no longer exists. What more can people do beyond hanging Parliament when they are unhappy (rightly) at the failure of Parliament to represent them?

    The major worry is that students are not alone in not being represented today. It would seem we all need a Joanna Lumley to make our case and MP’s have become redundent. From the point of view of the people we simply do not need them for anything.

    As I return to the doorsteps it becomes increasingly apparent every tme that the general national interests of the majority of people in this country are dismissed by elected reps, many of whom do not understand what is expected of them by the people.

    Parliament is hung, politicians and political parties are on probation and I have to say it is not looking very good at the moment.

    Conservatives (according to Purnell via Daily Politics) simply implimenting Labour’s plans, disagreements on technicalities, lack of vision from both sides, advocacy limited to 6 years old petty diatribes at parliamentary questions and even the jokes (Harriets reference to University and meeting an odd man with ref to Clegg and Cameron) is limited to the narrow outdated student tradition.

    Most people would certainly understand or relate to this and it comes across as weird. Especially when peoples real lives are affected.

    MP’s have simply continued the trend from before the General Election, they are out of touch, out of ideas, and the way things are going out of time.

    Democracy is not a given for the scroungers in Parliament it can be lost easily is taken for granted and abused. History has shown this again and again.

  15. Save EMA

    RT @JamesMills1984: Good post by @wdjstraw on yesterday's protest and the government lies on EMA http://bit.ly/9heMlg @SaveEMA #SaveEMA

  16. Guy AC

    The guy who threw a fire extinguisher off the roof is clearly an idiot, and deserves to be condemned, but the storming of Millbank was a legitimate form of protest and direct action. It’s important to distinguish between “violence” and minor property damage and not play into the narrative of the mainstream media who see the smashing of a few windows as the most heinous crime that’s ever been committed. The invasion and occupation of spaces is a legitimate technique and it’s kind of disheartening to see many on the left rush to condemn it. So with respect, Will, I don’t think it’s right to see this as a “distraction” from the policy detail. I was actually rather pleased that this was seen as a more general protest against the cuts and not just tuition fees. As one veteran leftist said when she heard about Tory HQ being stormed, “It’s about bloody time!”

  17. Ralph Baldwin

    Sorry ammendment should read as “Most people would NOT certainly understand or relate to this and it comes across as weird. Especially when peoples real lives are affected.

  18. william

    Spot on, Anon E Mouse.Perception is everything,and a mini riot yesterday to be followed by 3 court cases over MPs expenses is a difficult backdrop.We need to constructively oppose on the economy and welfare, in a measured way. There is a vacuum at present.

  19. 13eastie

    “Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows attainment at GCSE and A-level by recipients of EMA has risen by 5 to 7 percentage points since its introduction”

    You’ll have to do a bit better than that.

    Exam results were dumbing down for decades prior to EMA’s. 20 years of successive A-Level improvements, were it down to chance, could be expected to happen once every 1,048,576 years (that’s 2^20).

    They have, on the other hand, given people a sense of entitlement to payment for participating in the state education system. As witnessed yesterday.

    If students are unwilling to pay a penny, EVEN AFTER THEY HAVE REAPED THE SUPPOSED REWARDS, for their “higher” education, first, the value of the qualifications on offer is called into question, and, second, why in the world should they expect anyone else to fork out?

    EMA’s were part of the problem.

    But you’re right about one thing: the mindless violence perpetrated yesterday by Aaron “we will use every weapon in our armoury” Porter’s followers at his shambolic mob DEMOLITION event has completely overshadowed their “cause” (which not one person has managed to articulate coherently or consistently). Justly so.

  20. David Landon Cole

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/9vQhWI

  21. Plane Stupid

    Whilst Left Foot Forward joins in with the outside agitator cliches. http://bit.ly/9heMlg Always knew which side you were on Will Straw

  22. Pat Raven

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/9vQhWI

  23. Wendy Maddox

    RT @leftfootfwd: Protest violence distracts from Tory U-turn on Education Maintenance Allowances http://bit.ly/bAZHaJ

  24. Mr. Sensible

    We should condemn the violence, but that should not distract us from what’s happening to education under this government.

    Clegg on ‘This Morning’ I believe said that he should have thought before signing that pledge.

    Whether he should have thought or not, fact is he did.

  25. Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – Blah blah again – Labour introduced these tuition fees, introduced Top Up fees after they said they wouldn’t.

    Stop being a hypocrite Mr.Sensible…

  26. The significance of Millbank: British protest begins « ULU Campaigner

    […] and protest, with a mindless act of aggression, and is especially unhelpful coming from those, like Will Straw, who are sympathetic to the protesters. It is possible for a protest to be both unlawful and […]

  27. maxy

    I warned against the cuts in EMA when the ConDems first came to office. The key point here is that steep rises in tuition fees is a way of introducing rationing through the back door. In the long run, students will be deterred from both attending further education colleges and university.

    I also would like to see some figures from the government as to just how much money will be saved by introducing the new policy of increased student fees. As I understand it, the govt. is planning to underwrite student debt and loans over a twenty five year period. Does anybody know where figures can be found to support the idea that money will be saved? Surely spreading the payment burden over twenty five years will cost more in the long run to the government. Answers please????

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