From education to employment

AOC reveals up to 75 per cent of students are still waiting for EMA

David Collins, president of the Association of Colleges, has revealed that up to 75 per cent of the poorest students in England have yet to receive Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).


Mr Collins said: “Some colleges have reported that 50 per cent of students have received their EMA, but the average seems to be about 25 to 30 per cent.


“In some ways this is a worse problem than the problems with Sats, because the Sats do not affect careers or staying on in college.”


The delays have been blamed on administration problems at Liberata, the private firm that took responsibility for the EMA in July 2007. Its £80m six-year contract also includes the running of the Adult Learning Grant, and the Care to Learn scheme. These grants target students on low incomes who are trying to improve their basic skills by taking qualifications like A-levels, GCSEs, BTECs and NVQs.


The Learning Skills Council (LSC) has offered reassurances that it is doing everything it can to prevent financial hardship for students.


Beth Walker, NUS Vice President for Further Education, said: “It is unacceptable that there is still so much confusion around the EMA situation. The LSC has made assurances that colleges will be adequately supported to help the thousands of students affected, but we now hear that colleges are being forced into robbing Peter to pay Paul.


“The LSC must act to boost Learner Support Funds to ensure there is adequate support for all learners in need. It must also write to all students, apologising for the situation and making it clear how they can access interim support.


“Should Liberata be fined for its part in this shambles, as the LSC has already suggested, then that money must be reinvested into Learner Support Funds for students this year to ensure the money reaches those who have been worst affected.”

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