From education to employment

EMA Extension for post-16 Level Playing Field in Learning

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) are set to extend the provision for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which Trevor Fellowes, director of learner support at the LSC sees as levelling the playing field for post 16 learners. In an article on the prospects for the future, Mr. Fellowes sees an easing of the constraints and a rising of support.

Arguing that a student’s achievements can often suffer from lack of funds, he sees the broadening of the EMA ““ which is a Government funded scheme providing up to £30 per week to 16 -19 year old learners as a support for their choice to continue education, as a symbol of freedom of choice in education. As he puts it: “Too often money pressures sway a young persons choice of course when they move on from compulsory education. Instead of choosing whats right for them, they go for what seems to fit their finances. Making a wrong choice can affect a students motivation and achievements can dip.”

A Single System

The new development will come into being from April 2006, when an additional 65,000 young people will be eligible for the support (studying on certain LSC programmes of study). Mr. Fellowes points out the importance of this change, stating that the support ““ replacing the Minimum Training Allowance (MTA) that is offset by other benefits that are claimed ““ will lead to “a significant increase in financial support for those that need it most.”

Mr. Fellowes goes into greater detail regarding the potential benefit to the lowest earners in society, saying: “Many low-income families will see a significant increase in financial support through eligibility for Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit, with the maximum amount available a week rising to £88 compared with £40 under MTA. Young people living independently and on income support can also receive EMA, providing a personal package of £74.05 a week.” He again refers to the “level playing field” that this measure is designed to encourage.

The Effect of the EMA

The EMA is believed to be having positive results. The LSC anticipates providing EMA support to some 400,000 young people both in colleges and schools. Some 73.3% of 16 year olds were (in 2004) in full time education, which is higher than ever before. The belief of the LSC is that the EMA is helping in this, creating a situation where the young learner is fully aware that to get something you must first give something.

Mr. Fellowes cites two specific examples for this success: “Both Lewisham College in London and Wyke College in Hull have reported that attendance and achievement levels have increased by up to three per cent, with EMA a major contributor to these figures. Mike Rogerson, Vice-Principal at Wyke College, said: “EMA is helping students stay on their courses and helping them achieve. Not all benefits can be quantified or attributed to EMA, but there are many examples of students who have stayed on purely because of it.”

The EMA and the Road Ahead

Alongside these benefits and the changes observed in punctuality and behaviour, the EMA is believed to be behind the extension for learners starting programmes such as Entry to Employment (e2e) and Programme Led Pathways (PLP), both of which are due to begin on April the 10th 2006. There remains concern on the part of private training companies regarding exactly what is expected of them, to which Mr. Fellowes expresses the LSC’s commitment “to working with work based learning providers to make these changes happen with as little disruption as possible.”

Mr. Fellowes closes by saying: “The EMA extension heralds a fair system of financial support that offers e2e and PLP trainees the same benefits as their FE counterparts. We are looking forward to working closely with the sector over the next few months to make the extension a success.” There do, however, remain concerns amongst the work based training providers; and quite separately, the LSC still have not fully satisfied those who question whether it is right or not for a student to be paid to study.

Jethro Marsh

Should the EMA pay students to learn? Tell us the true price of learning in the FE Blog

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