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Anger over decision to scrap EMA

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Newbury students are frustrated at the failure to prevent the Education Maintenance Allowance from being scrapped

A FAILED bid to prevent the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from being scrapped has provoked anger amongst students in Newbury.

The Labour party had called for Education Secretary Michael Gove to reverse his controversial decision, but the vote was defeated last Wednesday (19) by 317 votes to 258, leaving a Government majority 59.

The weekly payments of between £10 and £30 for young adults living in households earning under £30,800, have been used for essential items such as travel, books, equipment and food, according to Newbury's Member of Youth Parliament, Adam Osmond, aged 17, who himself had been lobbying MPs to abandon the plan to scrap it.

“The EMA is useful as it helps disadvantaged students do courses like music, where the extra money comes in really handy,” he said.

“On top of the rise in tuition fees it does seem like young people are being unfairly targeted. It's another move which will make it much more difficult to access higher education.”

A pupil of St Bartholomew's School, Newbury, Louise Lane, aged 17, said she was angry that the payments had been stopped as it had helped her during a difficult period when she had to give up her job to concentrate on her studies.

“I was hoping to go to university after sixth form, and EMA was helping me save for that,” she said. “The majority of this goes to saving for further education and the fact that this does not continue may mean I have to change my plans.”

Andrew Coppock, aged 18, is a student at Newbury College.

He said he knew many people who were very disheartened at the loss of the payment, and added: “As my family isn't that well off I'm part of the EMA scheme that helps me greatly every week, this is going to affect me badly as I mainly use the money for travel and equiptment costs.”

One pupil heading to Newbury College in September, Joezy Wells, aged 16, said he was also worried about the cost of travelling back and to, and did not know if he would be able to afford it.

In November, students from across the district held a protest in Newbury and marched on the office of their local MP Richard Benyon, angry at the Government's decision to raise tuition fees and cut the Education Maintenance Allowance.

This week Mr Benyon defended the decision to axe the fund.

He said the original aim of the payment was now defunct due to funding changes which put the power to dish out funds to those in need into the hands of schools and colleges.

“EMA was valuable but was hugely expensive, and what we want to do is provide schools with a fund they can spend on those students they have identified as being most in need,” he said.

“The original aim was to encourage people to stay on and that is now being funded in other ways by the government.

He added that the responsibility of getting pupils to school was one the local authority would take up.

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