Bursary is not enough

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A SENIOR councillor claims youngsters in Hartlepool will be held back by a Government decision to make changes to further education funding.

The Government announced a new £180 million bursary scheme last week to help the most vulnerable 16-19 years olds continue in full-time education.

The scheme replaces the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) payments, and will be split into two pots to pay a small group of the most vulnerable students from low income families, and a fund for schools and colleges to distribute.

The current discretionary fund is £26m, but Hartlepool Labour leader Chris Simmons described the new plan as “a small gesture”.

Coun Simmons said: “In Hartlepool, a lot of young people depend on the EMA to stay in education and its withdrawal will have a major effect on them.

“A small gesture like this won’t go anywhere near redressing that balance.

“This Government is fiddling with the future of young people and preventing them achieving their full potential.”

He also raised fears that if young people were forced to leave education because they cannot afford to pay for travel, books or other expenses then it would have a knock-on effect with more young people out of work.

All students who first successfully applied for EMA in 2009-10 will continue to receive payments at the same level until the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

Young people now in their first year of post-16 study who were in receipt of the maximum weekly EMA payment of £30 will be eligible for £20 for each week they are in education or training until the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

Explaining the Government decision, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said: “Sadly, we have been falling behind other nations in our educational performance. We have one of the most unequal education systems in the developed world.

“We have an insufficient supply of high quality vocational education. We have a system of education spending which is fundamentally inefficient.”

The EMA scheme cost £560m per year and was paid to 45 per cent of young people.