Thousands of West Yorkshire teenagers hit by cuts

Almost 20,000 youngsters in West Yorkshire are to be denied £30 a week that helps them stay on at school.

One Leeds MP today warned that axing Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) will do more damage to the chances of working class children in Leeds than raising tuition fees.

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Figures obtained by the YEP show 9,186 young people in Leeds aged between 16 and 18 claimed EMA in 2009/10. A further 6,100 youngsters claimed in Kirklees and 4,232 in Wakefield.

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In total, 19,518 students across West Yorkshire claimed EMA, according to the most recent government figures.

Around 45 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds nationally claim the payments of between 10 and 30, for those living in households earning under 30,800. That figure is as high as 90 per cent in at least one school in Leeds.

Jade Hargeaves, a student at South Leeds Academy, said many pupils would struggle to stay at school when the grant is axed.

She said: "My dad has tried really hard to get a job but at the moment he isn't working. My mum is a teaching assistant but she can't always afford things.

"It doesn't matter for the students whose parents have lots but for those of us who need the money it is really wrong and unfair of the Government to abolish EMA."

Mr Gove, however, has defended the scrapping of the means-tested EMA, saying the grant had been "poorly targeted" and warning that "you cannot spend money you do not have".

Labour this week attempted to reverse plans to scrap the allowance, with shadow education secretary Andy Burnham telling MPs that social mobility would be "thrown into reverse".

The government, however, comfortably won a Commons vote on the issue on Wednesday by a majority of 59 votes.

Leeds East Labour MP George Mudie said afterwards: "It's a really

vicious move that will harm the future of many youngsters from working class backgrounds. It's senseless."

Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves this week presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of 100 students at Swallow Hill Community College.

She said around 75 per cent of students aged 16 to 18 in her constituency receive EMA and around 90 per cent of those at Swallow Hill claim the allowance.

Ms Reeves said: "In many ways I think this will hold back the chances of working class kids more than tuition fees."

Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) has written to Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove to complain that it was "wrong" to axe EMA without having first announced what will replace it.

In his letter to Mr Gove, Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland said: "It is a bad way to make policy, has led to considerable uncertainty especially for young people who will be affected by changes and has also given the Labour opposition an opportunity to attack the coalition."

EMAs, which cost 560m a year, were introduced by Labour to encourage children from deprived backgrounds to stay in education and training after the age of 16.

Depending on their parents' income, students receive payments of 10, 20 or 30 a week.

The government says it wants to replace the EMA scheme with "more targeted" support, aimed at young people who are most likely to drop out.

Mr Gove said: "Some who need more support do not receive it, and some who receive support should not be receiving the amount that they do."

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