With MPs set to vote on the future of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), a new poll reveals 70 per cent of recipients would leave college if it is axed.
With MPs about to vote on the future of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) a new poll of over 700 students has revealed that 70 per cent of them would drop out of college if the scheme is axed. The EMA is a weekly payment of between £10 and £30, s given to 16 to 18-year-olds living in households whose income is under £30,800 a year to encourage them stay in education.
The survey was conducted by the University and College Union (UCU) and questioned pupils at the 30 colleges and sixth-forms with the highest proportion of students receiving the EMA. The study also concluded that over a third (38%) of those who currently receive EMA would not have chosen to start the course without it.
David Cameron and education secretary Michael Gove both publicly stated that they wouldn’t scrap EMA before the general election, however their u-turn has provoked an opposition day debate in Parliament tomorrow in which MPs will vote on a motion that calls on the government to reconsider plans to scrap the financial support.
Mr Cameron said:
“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, 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.I said we don’t have any plans to get rid of them…
“It’s one of those things that the Labour party keep putting out that we are but we’re not. I think, as I say, they have had, they’ve had some benefits, because what we’re trying to do is encourage young people to stay on at school, yep, that is a yes, no, it is, I think I’ve given you, ya, gosh.”
The debate will be in sync with a day of joint action by students, staff and unions as part of the Save EMA campaign. As well as lunchtime demonstrations today and tomorrow around the country ahead of tomorrow’s vote there will be a lobby in the House of Commons between 1pm and 4pm.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has spoken out against cutting the EMA, arguing:
“The results of this survey make a mockery of Michael Gove’s claims that the EMA is a deadweight cost. EMAs make the difference between students being able to attend college and complete their course or being priced out. It is quite scandalous that Michael Gove is planning to break his pre-election pledge to keep EMAs when he has not even visited one further education college. MPs must consider the blighted futures of thousands of young people when they vote on Wednesday.”
President of the National Union of Students (NUS), Aaron Porter has also hit out at the proposals:
“The EMA is a vital lifeline for thousands and every piece of reliable evidence backs that up. The government’s assertion that it is ‘90% deadweight’ is narrow-minded and shows how out of touch they are with the needs of ambitious young people from poorer backgrounds. Scrapping EMA and other support for young people will destroy the aspirations of thousands of young people and the government must take a step back and reconsider their plans.”
The proposals to scrap the EMA are expected to pass with a healthy majority with the Conservative’s being supported by their Liberal Democrat coalition partners. However until they have outlined the alternative scheme that they have promised to implement to replace the EMA the lack of support for aspirational and financially dependent students may well be seen as another broken promise by the coalition government.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.