Labour’s push for a Government U-turn on its plan to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has been defeated in a Commons vote despite more student protests.
Labour’s call for the Government to rethink its decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance has been defeated in the Commons by 317 votes to 258, a Government majority 59.
Earlier, students and lecturers from across England gathered in London to demonstrate against the Government’s proposals.
The protest started at Piccadilly Circus where campaigners waved banners which read: “Make Clegg and Cameron pay. Bring down the Government.”
Police, who handed out leaflets on what to do in case of violence, were keeping a low profile before the march set off to Parliament Square.
EMA is currently paid to teenagers whose parents earn less than £30,800 a year. Students receive up to £30 a week EMA depending on certain conditions such as attendance.
The Government has announced the grant will stop and it has already been closed to new applicants.
Students who travelled to London told Channel 4 News they would struggle to continue studying without the extra money.
If I don’t get to college I won’t get my A-levels and I won’t be able to go to university and become a paramedic. Amanda Jones
John Paterson from Sunderland said: “It’s going to affect so many people, it’s going to devastate the careers and lives of so many students.
“We haven’t worked this hard to come away with nothing.”
Amanda Jones travelled to London from Blackpool. Her mum has recently lost her job and her dad’s working hours are restricted because of medical conditions: “EMA is really important to me and if I can’t get it I can’t continue with college next year.
“If I don’t get to college I won’t get my A-levels and I won’t be able to go to university and become a paramedic like I want to be”
Lecturers have also joined the protests.
Kath Hepburn works at City of Sunderland College: “The fear is some of the students, particularly the ones here today, wouldn’t be able to travel into college..I just worry what would happen to them. What would they do through the day if they weren’t coming into college?”
David Cameron defended Government plans to scrap the EMA but said he wanted more pupils to stay on at school.
MPs have been debating a motion that calls for the Government to rethink the measure.
Mr Cameron said: “The problem, as you know, that we have is that we want more people to stay on in school but we have to look at the current system and how it’s working.
“The last Labour government commissioned research and found that 90 per cent of those on EMA would be attending school in any event.
“And we’ve also got to look at the context in which EMAs were introduced to this country.”
Mr Cameron said Labour had promised to fund the allowance “from savings we’ve made from our success in reducing debt”.
He added: “Is it any surprise we’re having to look at these spending programmes and work out how we’re going to get better value for money to clear up the mess we’ve been left?”