East End students “anxious” after parliament vote to scrap college allowance

EAST End college students were said to be “filled with anxiety” yesterday after parliament voted to scrap their weekly allowance.

Over the past few months, students from Tower Hamlets College had organised debates and protests to keep the Education Maintenance Allowance, which are up to �30 a week for the poorest pupils.

But yesterday, Labour’s call to rethink the controversial decision was defeated by 317 votes to 258.

As of September, no more students will receive the grant.

Critics have said deprived boroughs like Tower Hamlets will be hit hard.

Since the allowance was introduced in 2004, the number of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in the borough has dropped by half.

Principal of the Poplar college, Michael Farley said the government has made “the wrong decision.”

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He added: “There is significant evidence to show the positive impact EMA has had on young people, particularly those from communities such as Tower Hamlets. I find the decision shocking, particularly as it came on the same day that the Office of National Statistics announced that there are 951,000 16-24 year olds out of work, the highest number since records began in 1992.

“If there is an alternative scheme to support those most in need who wish to carry on with their education we need to know about this quickly. Students are making decisions now on whether they will be able to afford to study next September.”

Richard McEwan, lecturer, said: “There’s a lot of anxiety among the students.

“EMA is a very cost effective benefit. At �30 a week, it’s cheap. It costs around �50,000 for the various benefits and schemes for each NEET but keeping that young person in college for two years is about �2,000.”

The allowance is a weekly payment of between �10 and �30 given to 16 to 18-year-olds living in households earning under �30,800 a year, to help them stay in education.

Many have said the lack of part-time jobs available is a double whammy for students, as they will not be able to make up the cash themselves.

Mr McEwan said there is hope that the decision could be overturned on appeal or an alternative benefit brought in.

He added: “I don’t think it’s over by a long shot.

“We’re hoping the government is going to look where EMA is at a high density and come with an effective alternative.”

The Government has already said it is planning to introduce a hardship fund for colleges and sixth forms with a high number of poor students.

Lecturers and students are planning to attend a mass rally in central London on January 29 to lobby against both the scrapping of EMA and the rise in university tuition fees to up to �9,000 a year.