Education allowance cuts could leave East End teens on the scrap heap

PLANS to scrap weekly allowances for young people in education could leave poorer East End teens on the scrap heap, a college principal warns.

The government’s proposal to end the education maintenance allowance – which hands struggling 16 to 18-year-olds in college or sixth form up to �30 a week – will affect East End youths disproportionately.

Since 2004, more than 22,000 people in Tower Hamlets have received EMA – far more than the London average.

In Tower Hamlets College alone, 70 per cent of pupils rely on the cash.

Michael Farley, principal of the Poplar High Street college, has written to MPs Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick, urging them to lobby the government over the plans.

Mr Farley said: “The allowance has had a significant impact. �30 a week may not sound a lot, but to some students it makes all the difference.

“My advice is always is to stay in education as long as possible. It’s a more competitive labour market now and young people will be fighting for the same jobs.

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“My fear is many will choose not to study full time and will be in neither employment nor education.”

Around a third of households in Tower Hamlets have incomes of less than �20,000 and 1,300 students at the college get the allowance.

Since the allowance was introduced, the number of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in Tower Hamlets has dropped by half, from around 13 per cent to six per cent.

There are plans to replace the EMA with a learner support fund for the most needy institutions, but Mr Farley fears the cash will not go far enough.

He added: “The amount of money we will get will be a fraction of the EMA. My concern is there won’t be sufficient funds to go around and I will have to make a decision how to spread the money between students.”

It is thought the number of students receiving the funds at the college could drop to 200.

Labour MPs Ms Ali and Mr Fitzpatrick are urging the government to scrap the plans.

Ms Ali brought up the issue in parliament last week.

She said young people across the East End are worried, adding: “They are nervous about how their families will cope without support, especially during these tough economic times; and after sixth form they are worried about how they will be able to afford fees of up to �9,000 to go to university.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said he was “very concerned”, adding: “We’ve seen thousands more local youngsters going onto college and university over the last 10 years and this must continue.

“The coalition has not said what and how their replacement scheme will work, who’ll get it and how much it’ll be worth.”

The fund is due to be scrapped next year.