ON Tuesday, Homesteads councillor James Halden rose in the chamber to explain as to why he felt the aboliton of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was a good thing.
“AS the most recent to leave the Thurrock education in this chamber, as someone whom inspires to be a teacher and as someone who has had only Thurrock education up to 18, I feel rather qualified to talk on this matter.
During my first few months in this chamber I put forward a motion to support the Thurrock youth cabinet, I want to be an advocate for students but I wont say something that sounds popular and sounds like good politics because I think it would be untrue and thus a disservice to those whom I wish to serve.
First of all EMA does not work. EMA is meant to aid students who would have their education suffer due to their financial situation but the fact is that rather than this aid being targeted, it goes to over 50% of all students and as a result, this tax payer funded grant is not getting spent on education tools and Labour admitted that.
It’s a fact that almost more students in full time education receive EMA than those who don’t and this just means that support is not getting to those who most need it. So the tragic result of what seems to be a good system is that it does not hit its target of the worse off.
The current government is still supporting those worse off but now they are focusing on those who need aid the most. It seems to make simple sense to this side of the chamber that those with the greatest need get the greatest amount help and let’s be honest because the system is so unfocused it only gives, on average just £30 per week to the worse off. Do we honestly think that £30 support is enough, we need to stop the mentality that we can just pump unregulated money into a problem it’s not fair to students.
Secondary EMA was described by a Labour education secretary as a means of providing financial incentive for 16 year old to continue in education. Despite the fact that Labour data shows that 90% of students would stay in education without EMA, The critical point is that the school compulsory leaving age is now going from 16 to 18 which means that an incentive to encourage is no longer needed because they will have to stay in the educational system. Surely the leader is not arguing that we provide incentives from that which is compulsory.
The point is that we now live in an age where budgets are tight and thus we need to focus help on those who most need it rather than just propping up a unfocused system that costs the tax payer half a billion pounds per year, £36million in admin, just because it sounds like good politics. Further more I was proud to see our education minster in Thurrock, praising the academies program and happily answering questions from students.
But ultimately if you wanted to put forward a motion to this chamber it should be an apology on behalf of your party for saddling every student in Thurrock and in the nation with £20000 of debt before they have even applied for college!
But I will say, if a college or such in Thurrock wants to ask me to come and explain myself then I will with pleasure because it is an honour to be a student in the chamber and I will not silence myself on an important issue and good government policy because it may make me more popular.