The government goes to vote over whether or not to scrap the education maintenance allowance on Wednesday. Two of our reporters argue for and against the latest proposed cut to funding for education.
AGAINST – Charlie Cooper
Scrapping the EMA will ruin lives. A survey carried out by the education charity Recourse has found that seven in ten college students from poor families would drop out without it. 650,000 students receive EMA. So that’s 455,000 young people who might not go to college next year. That means they won’t go to university either. Education is over for them.
What does that matter? Surely they can go out and learn a trade, start earning and start putting money back in the economy. Soon they’ll be paying their own taxes rather than draining money from ours. It’ll be good for the economy and therefore good for everybody, according to the logic of the coalition.
It’s possible that actually, rather than being a grey mass of tax-sucking proles, they are in fact 455,000 individuals, each with curious, creative, expansive minds. EMA was the great leveller that nudged these people up to a level that they could exercise their right to education beyond the age of 16, without worrying about money.
It is being taken away, and that right – the right to access centuries of literature, art and culture, the right to see the miracles of nature and physics, the right to understand why people are who they are and how they function together – is now only a right for those who can afford it.
In the 21st century, in the sixth wealthiest nation in the world – a nation whose top 1% of households makes an average of £2.6 million a year – that is unnecessary, indefensible and above all very sad.
FOR – Camilla Hemmestad
The EMA should be scrapped.
In the middle of the credit crunch, why should the taxpayer pay for something only very few actually seem to need?
The IFS found that 65 out of 69 students who are eligible for the EMA would stay in education whether they got it or not. The EMA is about keeping students at school, but if they go anyway there must be better ways to spend the money. And it is not just a little bit, it is actually £560 million a year!
And there are several places in the education sector where it could be better spent. How about improving the quality of teaching? Or what about making modern languages compulsory again? To get into good universities it is necessary anyway and therefore a valid investment.
In addition, a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the most important reason why students go on to study after age 16 is actually how good their GCSE results are. It would therefore be more wisely to spend the money helping pupils achieve decent grades.
Don’t get me wrong, the EMA is a nice idea. But if most youths go to school whether or not they get £30 a week, there are better ways of spending the money, especially in a time of huge debt.