FOI release

Data from the education maintenance allowance pilot schemes

A request for disclosure of data from the education maintenance allowance (EMA) pilot schemes.


  • Date requested: 20 December 2010
  • Publish date: 21 January 2011
  • Updated: 19 April 2011


Can the department explain why the data from the pilot schemes was considered to show that EMA was ineffective as a scheme? Please make this data available and provide an explanation of why it shows EMA to be ineffective.

Also, can the department provide information regarding departmental policy on programme reviews?


In reaching the decision to end EMA the government has looked closely at evaluation evidence and other research, which indicate that the availability of EMA has not been a determining factor in young people’s participation or the choices they make about continuing in education and training after the age of 16.

The ‘Barriers to participation in education and training’ research reported that only 12% of young people in receipt of EMA said that they would not have participated without it.

This research is in line with findings from evaluations of EMA commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council and conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). An evaluation of the EMA pilots was conducted by a consortium led by the Centre for Research into Social Policy (CRSP) and involving the IFS and the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). The main aims of the evaluation were to assess the impact of EMA on participation, retention and achievement in post-16 education.

The research by the IFS and CRSP has shown previously that EMA would increase participation in post-16 education by 4 percentage points and up to 9 percentage points for the poorest young people. This is consistent with the conclusion of the ‘Barriers to participation in education and training’ research.

All of the evaluation reports are publicly available from the publications section.

The available evidence shows that, while EMA does have an impact on participation, that impact is small compared to the proportion of learners receiving it and, hence, the overall cost of the scheme.

Since EMA was introduced, patterns of participation in education and training have changed significantly, and an incentive-based scheme is no longer an appropriate - or affordable - means of ensuring that those young people, who really need support, get it.

With regards to ’information on departmental policy on programme reviews’, in relation to  the EMA programme; the context of the decision to end the scheme and replace it with enhanced discretionary learner support funding as announced in the spending review, the department can confirm that discussions on distributional impacts, including impacts on equality, informed the process for spending review policy discussions and decisions, and that this department worked closely with HM Treasury to assess the impact of spending review decisions on different sections of society.

Further information about the process for the spending review and policies can be found on the HM Treasury website.