Council reinstates grants worth £1.1m to boost education for young people

Mayor Lutfur Rahman, centre, with Youth Council reps at Mulberry Place. Pic: Tower Hamlets Council

Over £1m in grants have been approved to alleviate education costs for young people affected by the cost-of-living crisis in Tower Hamlets.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman reinstated the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and University Bursary Award to encourage young people to stay in education after turning 16.

He told the Council’s Cabinet that he does not want money to stop young children from pursuing their dreams. He said: “The quality of education at A-levels is not as good and students often leave the borough. We want our schools to offer the best education possible so that our students go on to Russell Group universities.”

The bursary allows eligible students to apply for a £1500 payment during their degree and £400 for EMA to help with their books, computers and transport.

EMA was introduced by the New Labour government in 1999, after which it was scrapped by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2011 because they believed it to be overly expensive and poorly targeted.

Rahman said: “[University Bursary Award] was a successful scheme during our previous administration and hugely helped and contributed to many people. As we are in the cost of living crisis, every single help is going to make a huge difference.”

Steve Nyakatawa, Director of Education, said that applications for both grants will be electronic, and the system will be fair and will support those who are in need.

However, Councillor Iqbal Hossain said: “The grant alone is not a success story, it should be complemented by good schools that are community minded, approachable and have the ability and readiness to listen.” 

Hossain said that he had to wait three months for a reply to a letter to a headmaster he sent on behalf of a constituent. He added: “What will happen to commoners and minority communities if this is the case with me, the council member? This indicates how parents are treated. Without allowing the community to be part of this, it will hinder the dream we have about excellence in education in our borough.”

Morgan Ofori, a master’s student at Goldsmiths, in Lewisham, received EMA in 2009 whilst studying for A-levels.

He told EastLondonLines: “Previously, EMA came directly from the government, so I’m unsure how this scheme would practically work. The way you got it, was with 100% attendance and punctuality all week. It was £30 a week.” 

Ofori added: “I think it’s a great idea, and other councils should follow Tower Hamlets’ lead.”

Rahman has also extended the deadline for grant applications to January 2, 2023. You can apply for the grant here.

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