Axing of EMA closes route to a better future

THE Government's decision to scrap the education maintenance allowance will have a far-reaching effect on tens of thousands of West Yorkshire families.

Killing these payments that offered so many a brighter future will once again raise the barriers to participation in further education, especially when support to poorer families is being cut elsewhere.

Critics of EMA argued that the system saw money wasted on those who would go on to college or sixth form with or without it.

If that were true wouldn't the logical step have been to make the means testing that decides eligibility for the payments even more stringent?

To simply abolish the EMA altogether is to take away a vital lifeline for youngsters from hard-up families, one that makes further education possible for thousands of students in Leeds by contributing to the cost of everything from textbooks to travel.

The coalition's decision is based on a report from the National Foundation for Education Research which stated that only 12 per cent of EMA recipients would not have undertaken their course if they had not received the allowance.

The report surveyed students in year 11, some of whom would not have been old enough to receive the EMA.

By way of contrast, a poll of more than 2,000 recipients by the National Union of Students saw 60 per cent say they would be unable to continue learning without it.

For those who do manage to stay on, the loss of these payments will add to the financial burden of families already struggling to stay afloat.

Some 91 per cent of young people who are entitled to free school meals at year 11 currently receive an allowance under the scheme.

83 per cent of young people from single-parent households get it, as do 76 per cent of the lowest-achieving 16-year-olds who continue in education.

What future can the Government offer these young people now?

Bright signs

LEEDS United are back in league action at Portsmouth tomorrow after their brave showing in the FA Cup.

Simon Grayson's men were undone by Arsenal's galaxy of international stars in their 3-1 defeat in Wednesday night's replay at Elland Road.

Despite the loss, Leeds can feel proud of their performance against a top Premier League outfit with an astonishing depth of talent at their disposal.

The most encouraging sign from the tie was that Leeds did not look out of place against such high-class opposition.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger acknowledged as much after the match when he said Leeds would be a welcome addition to the game's top table and backed them to get there.

The message that will have gone out from Elland Road is that the club are ready for a return to the big time – and so are the fans.

Now let's see if the Whites can live up to those expectations and book that all-important promotion spot.

Caroline Verdon column: True love and romance is as individual as we are