Tower Hamlets MPs call further education funding into question

MP Rushanara Ali has questioned whether a new government bursary for further education will be enough to support poorer students at Tower Hamlets College.

The Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the new �180 million scheme which will give 12,000 vulnerable teenagers annual bursaries of �1,200 to stay in further education on Monday.

That is more than they would have received under the Education Maintenance Allowance, which the government is scrapping, according to the minister.

The scheme will also give funds to schools and colleges to give out at their discretion to poorer students.

But Ms Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, questioned whether this would be enough for the college in Poplar, having been told by its principal Michael Farley that he must choose one out of four students from poorer backgrounds to qualify for extra support.

She asked if Mr Gove could confirm that the other three out of four students who used to get EMA will now qualify.

She said: “The people of Tower Hamlets live in an area with some of the highest child poverty in the country and, as he can imagine, this support is desperately needed.

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“It is �1 million that the college needs.”

In response, Mr Gove said Tower Hamlets continues to be among the best-funded local authorities for students between the ages of five and 16 and said Tower Hamlets will benefit disproportionately from the pupil premium.

But he did not confirm the specific funding available to the college, saying he would work with Ms Ali “to ensure that those most in need get such help.”

Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar & Limehouse, also called on Mr Gove to assess the impact of his proposals on the borough once they come into effect in September and publish his results.