Students in Lancashire will have an extra reason to continue learning after leaving school, with the announcement that the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is to help them financially, with an expansion of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
The EMA is currently available to students who stay in further education, and worth up to £30 per week. It is now to be made available to all young people aged 16-17, who undertake an LSC-funded Entry to Employment (e2e) programme, or a course that leads onto an apprenticeship scheme.
The change will not only be of benefit to students, but also to families on lower incomes and those receiving state benefits and those experiencing hardship, by enabling them to benefit from further support from the Government. Providers of an e2e programme will now also be able to assist students who are experiencing financial difficulty through loans, grants and through access to a hardship fund, as part of the new scheme.
Outlining the Pros
The LSC, responsible for funding, planning education and training for over 16-year-olds in England, is keen to provide opportunity for all, and this decision will now see 65,000 more young people gain by staying in education. The Executive Director of the LSC in Lancashire, Steve Palmer, outlined the benefits of the scheme, saying: “EMA is provided to recruit and retain a young person in learning. We are encouraged that EMA has resulted in up to 10% improvement in retention rates on certain courses, and many of the young people are spending the money on items such as work clothing, stationery, books and travel.”
At present, 13,000 young people in Lancashire are in receipt of this allowance. Mr. Palmer continued: “I am delighted that young people on the e2e programme will now be able to benefit from EMA too. e2e is based on the needs of the young person, giving them the training, education and skills to enter the world of work. In the last year (05/06 to end Feb) over 1230 young people in Lancashire have benefited from e2e training for work in a diverse range of jobs from office work to construction, hairdressing, catering and computing.”
The decision by the LSC to extend the allowance to all young people can only be seen as a positive step forward. Providing financial support for all, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds could be the incentive necessary, to convince more people to stay in education after leaving school.
If the scheme is successful, the targets for the sector, as set out in the Government’s white paper last month, might be attainable. However, the long term future and success of this initiative is not certain, and will largely depend on the continuing funding and support of successive governments.
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