28 Mar 2011

Gove unveils EMA replacement: a £180m bursary fund

Education Secretary Michael Gove announces a new £180m bursary fund to help the poorest over 16-year-olds stay in education. It replaces the £560m EMA scheme cut in last year’s Spending Review.

 Students have been protesting about government cuts to their Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which is allocated to 16-19 year olds from low income backgrounds who wish to stay in education.

The Education Secretary gave details about the intended bursary scheme in the House of Commons today, answering at last what would replace the popular Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

£180m will be made available to schools and colleges, who will be free to decide on the allocation of that fund to any child on free school meals scheme.

The bursary will target 12,000 of the “most vulnerable” students – including those in care and the severely disabled – and pay them £1,200 provided they stay in education.

The announcement followed demonstrations at the weekend against the axing of the EMA, that previously paid £10 to £30 to 650,000 students.

Mr Gove did however say that by paying fewer students overall, they would be able to give more to those students who really needed it.

He also promised that those students who began courses in 2009 -10 and were told they would receive EMAs would continue to receive them.

Plus those students who started courses in 2010-11 and received £30 a week would receive payments of at least £20 a week until the next academic year.

The Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham however called it a “humiliating climb down” and said he taken a successful policy and turned it into a shambles.

'Badging' the Lib Dems in the coalition
Michael Gove, the lead cheer-leader for the Coalition amongst Tories, did the Lib Dem "badging" for them in announcing the EMA's cheaper replacement.

To shouts of "u-turn" from Labour benches, he credited David Laws, Sarah Teather, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes with devising the best bits of Coalition education policy and singled out Simon Hughes for his work on the EMA replacement.

Michael Gove's aides say he's secured £70m extra money from the Treasury for this (on top of the £110m they say the department put aside for some sort of EMA-lite policy back last Autumn).

Read more from Gary Gibbon: Gove spells out EMA replacement

The Education Maintenance Allowance was controversially cut in George Osborne’s Spending Review last year, and he argued that they were “poorly targeted” saying:

“Some of those who need more support don’t receive it, some of those who currently receive support are not those who should be receiving the amount that they do.”

Andy Burnham, shadow education secretary, however said there was a “compelling case” to keep the grant as it helped 650,000 young people and sent a “message of hope” to many.