It’s been rather a self-inflicted wound by the Coalition Government to leave such a long gap between announcing that it would abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance and publishing details of what will be introduced in its stead. I’m happy to wait until we know what the replacement will be like before judging whether the EMA abolition is a good move or not, but it’s not exactly a surprise that many people have made up their minds knowing only part of the story given that huge gap.
That said, the substance of the issue is an important one and the noises coming out of government over the weekend were promising:
The Government is to spend £180m to help children from poor families stay in education until the age of 18, ministers will announce next week.
The fund will soften the blow from the Coalition’s controversial decision to abolish Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMAs), which are worth up to £30 a week for 16 to 18-year-olds, depending on their family’s income.
The figure is more generous than expected and follows a last-minute intervention by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. Only £75m was earmarked for the replacement scheme in last autumn’s spending review. That was raised to £111m after pressure from the Liberal Democrats.
In negotiations alongside talks on the Budget, Mr Clegg squeezed a further £70m out of the Treasury. The deal was approved by David Cameron, the Chancellor George Osborne and the Education Secretary Michael Gove.
The majority of the new budget will be distributed to colleges to award, at their discretion, to students from less privileged backgrounds. A smaller proportion will be earmarked for automatic payments to students with special needs such as the disabled. Mr Clegg also won a pledge that the amount of money being spent would be reviewed, which could boost the fund in 2012-13. (The Independent)