ONE OF the first cuts the government made was to abolish the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) as we have known it.
The scheme was massively expanded under the last government as a means of encouraging poor students to stay on in further education.
The first term under the new scheme has now started and the figures show how the cuts are working.
Under the old scheme, pupils received £1,100 if their parents were on a low income. Students also received a daily contribution to their main meal.
I asked our sixth form college in Birkenhead how many pupils received help last year and how many are receiving help this year. There were 349 first-year students and 345 second year students gaining EMAs last year. And now?
Eleven students have been awarded the guaranteed bursary of £1,200. A further 129 students have gained the discretionary bursary but this amounts to only £300 a year plus a £320 meal allowance.
Many of the parents whose offspring stayed on in further education believed they would gain the £1,200 grant and feel that the government’s literature misled them. Compared with last year, 220 less first year pupils received support.
When the government was pushing these cuts through, I argued that Labour should do a trade-off. To cover this cost the government should allow class sizes to rise a little. There is no evidence that the size of classes particularly benefits poorer students. EMA, however, did encourage poorer pupils to stay in education.