Scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance, is this Reasonable?

After the dreadful rise in university tuition fees in England, news of EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) being scrapped becomes just about unbearable for students studying to go to university. And several protests have taken place against the idea. Those who still want to study at university, not only have to complete their studies with a massive debt to pay back, also they may find it extremely difficult to study through college or A-levels to get into university.

How EMA works: a weekly grant up to £30 to students aged 16 to 18. To work out how much EMA a student receives depends on how much the parents earn. If the parents earn £20,ooo or less, then the child receives £30 a week, between £20,000 to £25,000, then its £20 and £25,000 to £30,000, then it would only be £10. If the parents earn more £30,000, the child doesn’t qualify for the grant. This funding was introduced by the Labour Party to encourage the most disadvantaged students to stay in education after the age of 16.

To recover and improve society and the environment around us, we need our educational system to be at its best. We need to make sure all students get the most out of their education, and they would need all the help they can get for this. The EMA grant is a small sum of money given each week to students eligible; to pay for their travel costs and buying books and equipment. I believe this financial support should be there for those who need it. It helps students to excel academically, motivating and giving opportunities to better themselves in life and more chance to succeed. What about such students who haven’t part time jobs and cannot always rely on their parents or guardians to provide them with extra money, how will they get by? It’s not as if it’s easy to get a job these days. The government needs to think of students who are in situations like this. For students in such circumstances, EMA as we know would help so much, it would be invaluable.

Secretary of State for Education - Michael Gove

The education secretary Michael Gove mentioned that the grant had been “poorly targeted”[1]. And this I would say is true; for example there are students who work part time and still receive EMA. Surely such students can get by from what they earn on the weekends. But the Education Department hasn’t even bothered to record how many students on EMA have part time jobs (according to Iain Martin, Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe)[2], not even an estimate. There are issues with this grant and it always needed reviewing. But this doesn’t mean students do not need this grant anymore now does it? By scrapping EMA, many students will find it a struggle just to get through college and A-level courses. The most unfortunate students will stop dead in their tracks and may even give up their education.

It can be said that some students do not need the EMA grant and yet take advantage. Students who work part time in most cases have no need for the grant but they are still qualified to receive it under the requirements provided. These requirements were not provided by anyone random but the government. However, again this is not an excuse to scrap EMA, rather improve the scheme and make it work properly. Those who really need EMA will suffer the most without.

It is completely evident that the EMA scheme has not been properly planned and thought through when the Labour party first introduced it. The grant should have had much stricter requirements, and it ought to have been aimed at the most needy students, instead of simply basing the decision of who is given the grant on how much the parents earn. If these points were focused upon and implemented correctly, the grant would have cost much less to maintain as there would have been fewer students eligible to receive it. It would make sense for the current government to review the EMA scheme and make improvements where needed. I am sure by doing this the cost of it can be reduced effectively.

Despite the EMA scheme being poorly planned and targeted, it proved to be effective, motivating students to work harder and attend more, and to be independent. It helps a lot of unfortunate students to get an education they most definitely need. Providing the extra money when required to buy the resources needed to study. How does it make sense to suddenly take this help away from those who desperately require it? As I mentioned earlier, that many will struggle a great deal without the EMA grant and many may stop dead in their track and leave education. We cannot let this happen, and must prevent it if we are a nation which depends on the future generation to help run this country. Only the very fortunate will not be effected by this change, is this fair? The government needs to have a new and improved EMA scheme in place or something very similar, if it wants to provide all students with the best opportunities of education.

References 

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