Lewisham MP Joan Ruddock has hit out at government plans to scrap the educational maintenance allowance (EMA) for sixth-form students.
Over 14,000 students in east London will lose their weekly monetary allocation if the government decides to scrap it in a crucial parliamentary vote on Wednesday.
The EMA education grant of between £10 and £30 supports students whose parents’ earnings fall below £30,800 a year.
Ms Ruddock, MP for Lewisham Deptford, said: “Abolition of EMA could lead to many students from lower and middle income families being unable to afford post-16 education. I am particularly aware of how much it assists young people in Lewisham Deptford, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to continue their studies.”
Research released today by the University and College Union (UCU), suggests that 70% of teenagers would drop out of school if the EMA was abolished. Almost two-fifths say they would not have started their course if their grant was withdrawn.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Sttudents, said: “EMA is a vital lifeline for thousands and every piece of reliable evidence backs that up. Scrapping it and other support for young people will destroy the aspirations of thousands of young people and the government must take a step back and reconsider their plans.”
Lewisham has 3,282 pupils who receive the EMA grant, while Croydon has the highest number of recipients in east London with 3,967.
The government claims that the allowance for 16 to 18 year olds is wasteful and costs over £650 million a year, with administration costs amounting to £36 million.
James Haywood, campaigns and communications officer for Goldsmiths student union, said: “This is a typical case of rich taking from the poor. The ministers have no idea how tough it is for poor students, and if they scrap EMA its going to have a detrimental effect on working class kids who will be put of going college.”
Students who are receiving EMA at the moment will continue to do so, but new applications have already been stopped.
Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research states that 90% of students who receive EMA would still continue with their education without the payment.
But Aaron Porter argues that: “the government’s assertion that it is ‘90% deadweight’ is narrow-minded and shows how out of touch they are with the needs of ambitious young people from poorer backgrounds.”
Students will be marching on parliament on Wednesday in protest. The Save EMA demonstration will assemble at 4pm at Picadilly Circus before moving on to a rally at parliament at 5pm.