We're fighting to save the Education Maintenance Allowance, a payment scheme for 16- to 19-year-olds from low-income backgrounds who have chosen to stay in education.


The Education Select Committee’s report out today (covered by BBC here) responding to the Government’s abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has poured criticism on the Government’s “rushed” actions in ending the scheme and also rubbished the argument’s put forward by the government for scrapping the scheme. It goes further recommending that instead of abolishing the scheme the Government should of instead merely “slimmed-down” the scheme.

The Tory Chaired Select Committee’s report strongly criticized the Government for rushing through the abolition of EMA:

“we would have welcomed a more measured and public analysis by the Government before it reached its decision to abolish the EMA.”

And the Committee’s report also blew out of the water the Government’s “deadweight” argument for abolishing EMA:

“…economic “deadweight” costs are a feature of many interventions and do not necessarily mean that the policy is invalidated. The Government should have done more to acknowledge the combined impact on students’ participation, attainment and retention, particularly amongst disadvantaged sub-groups, before determining how to restructure financial support.”

It would be nice if the Government can quote a credible independent report that supports the abolition of EMA, but so far they have not done so and they constantly dodge the question whenever asked.

It also recommended that a slimmed down version of EMA would have been better than a move to a discretionary fund.

“The Committee is not persuaded that a strong enough case has been made for distributing £180 million in student support as discretionary bursaries rather than as a slimmed-down, more targeted entitlement. We believe that the Department should have conducted an earlier, more public assessment of the options for better targeting of student support.”

This is yet another major condemnation of Government policy on EMA, this time by a cross-party group of MPs, especially as the Select Committee is chaired by a Conservative MP.

It is a sad day to see a cross party committee of MPs, pretty much confirm what everyone seems to know in this country, except the Government and Michael Gove, that scrapping EMA was a truly bad decision.

There are now next to no one outside Government who supports scrapping EMA…

The Government should, while there is still time, reverse their decision on EMA or at least put off scrapping it for another year until they have something better in place.

Unfortunately, it is a good day to bury bad news for the Government…

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Save EMA supports today’s strikes

Remember when… teenagers on EMA, teachers, civil servants, social workers, care assistants, bin men, education officers, school support staff, librarians, social workers, nurses, doctors, lollipop ladies, and disabled people crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax?

No, we cant either…

That’s why Save EMA supports the strikes!

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The Government “Misrepresented the facts” when deciding to scrap EMA

Yesterday the Government’s whole argument for abolishing EMA was blown out of the water. The Education Select Committee in Parliament who are currently looking into the decision to the Government’s decision to abolish EMA received evidence from Thomas Spielhofer of the National Foundation for Educational Research. He was the lead researcher of the report Barriers to Participation in Education and Training, which is what the government has based its decision to abolish EMA on and it is the cornerstone of the Government’s whole argument on “deadweight”.

He started by declaring that “the research has been misrepresented in many ways”. He made it clear that his research “was first and foremost not about EMA” and that they “only had one question that referred to EMA.”

And that he never thought that his report would lead to the abolition of EMA, and was not happy that it did, especially without the government even asking for his opinion:

“It happened without any discussion with us…”

So the government didn’t even consult the report they constantly quote!

On the issue of “Deadweight”:

Asked whether he was “happy with the concept that EMA has a deadweight cost of 88%”, he said “no”.

He also replied that it was “completely correct” when asked if he was unhappy that the change in government policy had been based on his research.

This is clearly quite damming criticism!

Mr Spielhofer went further to make it clear he was not happy about the 88% figure being described as “deadweight” saying:

“You can interpret that in different ways. You can interpret it quite negatively, and say that for 88% that was wasted money, but I don’t actually see it that way, I think it has been misinterpreted in that sense.”

He added:

“I think the 12% is quite a worrying statistic….”

Asked whether he agreed with the government that EMA has a deadweight of 88% he said “no” and he made it clear that out of the 88% who said they would stay on with their courses that he they “simply didn’t know” if they needed it and how taking EMA away would affect them. In other words they may want or have the desire to do their course but that does not mean they can…

He further acknowledges that the survey was not weighted to represent the 80% of EMA recipients who are from household incomes below £21,000 a year:

“We didn’t ask how much they were receiving so many could have just been receiving £10”.

He gave analogy of free bus travel that for people over 65 and said you wouldn’t use the same argument for abolishing EMA to abolish the the Free Buss Pass. Something which the Tory chair of the Select Committee, Graham Stewart MP said would also be a “good idea”… Nice…

Mr Spielhofer then slammed the government replacement for EMA, the Discretionary Support Fund, by saying that as it was discretionary many students “would think that they wouldn’t qualify and wouldn’t apply”.

Rather worryingly he also added that “it’s the most vulnerable who will be the hardest hit” and it may push many of them into trying to enter the workplace in unskilled jobs without training, which will be hard at a time when there’s no jobs. Something Save EMA has constantly warned is not a long term sensible economic plan as the number of unskilled, unqualified jobs is reducing in our economy.

The government’s response to all this on to the BBC has been that there is a “range of evidence” for scrapping EMA but as the Prime Minister and Michael Gove have used this “deadweight” figure continuously then where is this other research?

This is very damaging to the Government and Michael Gove as it destroys their entire augment for scrapping EMA and with only a few months before colleges and students start their courses. But the real worrying problem is that now they are deciding not what to study but if they can study what they may want to…

You can view the whole meeting HERE or below if you move the slider to the 27-45 minute mark.

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According to the Government’s own Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) into the EMA Replacement Scheme by the Department for Education, the Save EMA campaign has discovered that Michael Gove has u-turned yet again on this policy due to legal action, this time posed by the Equality Act.

One of the main argument made by the Government for replacing EMA is that they are “better targeting” the EMA by making the awarding of discretionary payments locally at the discretion of local schools and colleges. Instead of the current EMA scheme which distributes payments centrally by simple open and transparent means tests. However, the Save EMA campaign discovered while studying the recent EIA report that Michael Gove and the Government could be u-turning again on EMA only over a month after we forced them into a u-turn.

This is because (as Save EMA discovered and covered by the BBC) that according to their own EIA they acknowledge that the replacement of EMA ‘could be discriminatory’ and lead to a possible breach of equality laws.

This is section 51 of the EIA under the heading Local Administration:

It will be at the discretion of colleges to determine the relative merits of applications for financial support. This process is therefore open to unintended discrimination on the basis of disability; gender; ethnicity or other characteristics protected under equality law. We will consider whether there should be some central arbitration of the discretionary administration of funding or at least ensure transparency of administration to evaluate the impact achieved by providers, including value for public money.

To remind you how big a sea change in Government policy this could be, this is what Michael Gove said only on the 28th March 2011:

“Schools and colleges will have the freedom to decide on the allocation of the bursary,” he added: “They are best placed to know the specific needs of their students, and we will give professionals full flexibility over allocating support.”

For those who don’t know, an Equality Impact Assessment is conducted by a Government Department ahead of the introduction of a certain initiative. It examines the likely or actual effects of policies or services on people in respect of disability, gender and racial equality to identify what effect its implementation may have on different groups in the country. It helps the Government Department make sure the needs of people are taken into account when they make a change to a current policy or service or when they develop and implement a new policy or service like what they are doing with EMA.

This report was done by the Department for Education themselves, which makes it all the more damning as this basically is the Department for Education acknowledging that their own policy will discriminate against the most vulnerable groups, which EMA was intended to help and target to get to remain in education.

Save EMA have been saying since day one that there would be grave equality issues brought up by removing EMA and the Government has finally admitted this by whispering it out in their own Equality Impact Assessment hoping no one would notice.

The proposed plans for the replacement of EMA will place the power of Herod into the hands of local more junior staff at a time when they will already be over worked, forcing them to make vital decisions over the future of some of the most vulnerable teenagers in our country. One just has to look at the views of self described “Tory Teacher” Katherine Birbalsingh to realise that the potential for discrimination through the lack of transparency in locally administered discretionary payments is severe.

It would be comical if this was not such a serious matter. Even this Government’s own figures show that after the national roll out of EMA in 2004 participation of 16-18-year-olds in full-time education rose.

This Government have taken a scheme viewed as successful by the IFS and created something now which ‘could be discriminatory.

Last month we successfully forced a u-turn out of the government by threat of legal action, this month it seems the government are forcing u-turns out of themselves by not following the law. As we said, it would be comical if this was not such a serious matter.

Please see below for a copy of the Equality Impact Assessment, with section 51. Local Administration highlighted:
EMA Equality Impact Assessment

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International criticism on the government’s plans to scrap the education maintenance allowance (EMA), has been levied at the government by the one of the most influential international economic institutions. According to a report published yesterday called “Going for Growth”, the influential OECD calls on the UK government to reinstate EMA as part of a range of measures to help reduce its huge government debt, and return growth to the UK economy.

This is what the report states that as a result of:

“Secondary school completion rates are low and youth unemployment is high.”

And acknowledges the argument that the government uses for scrapping EMA being due to the School leaving age rising to 18:

“It also plans to raise the secondary school leaving age to 18 years by 2015.”

But recommends the government to “improve targeting mechanisms” and encourage participation:

“Increase further the resources for disadvantaged students and improve targeting mechanisms. Encourage participation in secondary education by reintroducing the Education Maintenance Allowance. Ensure that vocational programmes provide skills that are relevant for the labour market.”

For those unaware the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is one of the most respected international economic organizations made up of 34 countries and quoted by this government on many occasions to support many of their other education policies. For example, David Cameron called the OECD a “force for good” only last month.

This is David Cameron’s own words on the OECD only last month:

“As part of our work to get the global economy back on its feet the UK will continue to champion the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It’s one of the world’s major international economic organisations and a force for good in building the intellectual and political case for open markets.

“the OECD has the experience and the commitment to deliver on its declared aim: to promote ‘better policies for better lives’ in its Member States and in the wider world.”

This is yet further proof that the decision to scrap EMA is among one of the most ill thought out decisions this government has made. It seriously questions the judgement of George Osborne and Michael Gove and obviously the education and economic policy of our country.

The government are against almost half the British people on this, the bulk of independent research which supports EMA, the leading economists in the country and now the leading economist in the world. If this government really listens it will change its mind on EMA. This

The government are gambling with the future of some of the poorest teenagers in our country by scrapping the EMA, and now today according to the OECD they are also gambling with our country’s economy.

The OECD makes it very clear if you want to save the UK economy you have to Save EMA!

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