Vocational subject attendance crumbles since EMA thrown on scrapheap

Article published: Wednesday, July 11th 2012

Attendance at work-orientated courses in Manchester has fallen since the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), according to figures from the city’s largest college.

Teenagers demonstrating against education cuts in December 2010

Statistics sourced from the Manchester College, which has experienced a drop in enrolments this year, reveal a 40 per cent drop in attendance for engineering and construction courses and a 20 per cent fall in young people studying childcare among those who have lost allowances to support their education.

Over 50 per cent of Manchester’s young people in further education received EMA, which provided a grant of up to £30 a week to cover the cost of attending college for teenagers from families with low incomes, before it was cut last year by the Coalition government.

The move attracted criticism at the time, with the headteacher of Xaverian College warning that cutting EMA would cause “great suffering” in a letter to local Labour MP Graham Kaufman.

Since it was ended major colleges and sixth forms in the city have provided a replacement means-tested bursary to help shore up the costs. Neither the schemes nor the amounts they offer are as extensive however, with a typical grant of £20 and the Manchester College’s replacement subsidy provided to just 250 students compared to the 1,000 reached by EMA, according to a Manchester City Council report released last May.

Course attendance for students at the college not in receipt of any allowance have dropped across a wide range of subjects, although the largest falls are in construction, engineering, automotive studies, childcare and health. Other subjects have fared relatively better, with media declining by 5 per cent and performance by 7 per cent.

The council study pointed to a “potentially disproportionate impact of the removal of EMA”, with the greatest falls “in subjects traditionally chosen by young people” from areas of the city with higher levels of poverty.

Overall however participation in education has held up throughout the city, with 88.9 per cent of young people leaving Manchester schools last year going into full time study compared to 89 per cent in 2010. The report cautioned however that “this year is the first year since 2003 in which percentage participation rates in further education have not increased”.

While arguing it was too early to judge whether cutting EMA has had a “significantly negative impact” given “mitigating factors” such the college’s bursary, the council report noted that “with slow rates of economic growth and a tight labour market, it is not unusual for young people to opt for post-16 study” given “sustained rates of educational attainment” among school leavers.

Richard Goulding

More: Cuts, Education, Manchester, News


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