Decision to scrap Education Maintenance Allowance ‘ill thought through’

A committee of MPs has criticised the way in which the government cut the Education Maintenance Allowance, which supported poor 16-19 year olds in education.

July 19, 2011

The Education Select Committee said today that the decision last October to close the £560 million scheme, which provides means-tested grants of up to £30 a week, was “rushed and ill-thought through”.

The decision was met with widespread protests, and the government did not release details of the £180 million bursary fund that is to replace the EMA until March, while funding allocations to colleges were not made until June.

The select committee said this was “far too late to allow Year 11 students to make fully informed decisions” about courses starting next academic year, adding that the delay “was regrettable and should not have been allowed to happen”.

However, despite its criticisms, the committee said it accepted that savings had to be made.

A spokesman for the Department for Education told the BBC it was “pleased” that the committee “acknowledges the government's rationale for closing the very expensive and centralised EMA scheme”.

The University and College Union said that last year, over 600,000 students received the EMA.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “We are pleased the select committee has acknowledged the complete mess the government has made of the EMA…The government needs to listen to the select committee, which actually took the time to properly analyse the EMA’s impact on retention and attainment…Ignorance is always more expensive than education and unless the government looks again at the help for our poorest teenagers then the state will be hit with a higher benefit payments bill.”

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