News story

Plans to end the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) programme

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Reasons for the Government's proposals to end the EMA programme and details of the funds that will be allocated in its place.

MPs will today vote on the Government’s plans to end the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16- to 18-year-old pupils in education or training. Colleges, schools and training providers will receive an enhanced discretionary learner fund so that they can target pupils most in need of financial support to stay in education post-16.

A Department spokesperson said:

Already 96 per cent of 16-year-olds and 94 per cent of 17-year-olds participate in education, employment or training. We are committed to going further still, to full participation for all young people up to the age of 18 by 2015.

EMA is a hugely expensive programme, costing over £560 million a year with administration costs amounting to £36 million. Pilot evidence and more recent research from the National Foundation for Educational Research found that almost 90 per cent of young people receiving the EMA believed that they would still have participated in the courses they were doing if they had not received it.

Young people currently receiving the EMA will continue to receive it for the rest of the academic year. However, they will not receive it next academic year.

Currently £26 million per year is given to schools, colleges and training providers as a discretionary leaner support fund to enable them to make small payments to those young people who are most likely to drop out of education without support. After the EMA is abolished this fund will be significantly increased.

Who is eligible for EMA and how much does it cost?

EMA costs £560 million a year in England and is paid to 650,000 young people - 45 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds in full time education. Around 80 per cent of those receive the highest rate of £30.

In England there were three income thresholds based on household income as follows:

  • income of up to £20,817 per annum - £30 per week
  • income of £20,818 to £25,521 per annum - £20 per week
  • income of £25,522 to £30,810 per annum - £10 per week.

Why have you made the decision to scrap the EMA?

The deeply worrying state of the public finances has meant we have had to make some tough decisions. Having looked at all the facts it was decided at the time of the spending review that the EMA scheme had to be replaced.

EMA costs over £560 million per year with administration costs amounting to £36 million. The Government believes it must target its resources to those most in need.

Research commissioned by the last Government shows that almost 90 per cent of young people receiving the EMA said that they would still have participated in the courses they were doing if they had not received it (Barriers to Participation in Education and Training, the Department for Education, published 24 June 2010). It also shows that finance only stops a minority (four per cent) from doing what they want to do after leaving school.

The same research also showed that the majority of young people (86 per cent) do not face any barriers that stop them from doing what they want to do at the end of Year 11.

What will you do to support those that are at risk of dropping out of education because they need financial support?

We are significantly increasing the £26 million learner support fund to help those most in need. This money is properly targeted to those who most need it and is distributed by individual colleges and schools who are on the ground and know the circumstances of their students far better than the Government does.

How will students on EMA afford transport to and from college or sixth form?

We recognise that transport costs in some areas can be expensive. Local authorities have a statutory duty to make sure that no young person in their area is prevented from attending education post-16 because of a lack of transport or support for it. If that duty is not being met then young people and families need to raise this with the local authority in the first instance.

A new root and branch review of all school transport will start shortly and look at all these issues.