Thursday, September 21, 2023

Why EMA had to go: A councillor’s view

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.

James said:

“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.


  1. Having a Grandson in Further Ed at Palmers, I think that EMA was a good thing. It encouraged regular attendance and good timekeeping (Students didn’t receive their EMA if they were late or missed a day).
    It also kept them from signing on for Job Seekers Allowance because there are so few jobs for unqualified youngsters.
    Also with the free transport being withdrawn why bother going to College at all!

  2. Well it was no suprise on Tuesday evening to see many Tories speaking out against EMA but none spoke with as much fervour as Cllr Halden.

    He points out that £30 a week EMA is an insignificant sum and would make no difference to students in Thurrock.

    Earlier the same evening he and his cronies were crowing about saving Thurrock residents less than £3 a year on council tax. If there was ever an insignificant sum then that was it .

    The students i come into contact with do not use the £30 to buy a cinema ticket or on other leisure activities as the Tories stated. They use it for travelling to college and to purchase their lunches etc. It is a vital part of their income and needs to stay.

  3. Sorry but the system is open to abuse and needs overhauling. There are children receiving EMA whose parents are quite wealthy but not declaring their income, there are children receiving EMA whose parents are pretending to be one parent families who are not. In the past when there was no EMA, chidlren still went into further education and got part time jobs to help pay for their costs. Also, I need to point out that parents still get full child benefit the whole time that children are in education, so this money should go towards their costs.

  4. Red Rebel doesn’t do rebelling very well does he? Everything Tory bad, everything Labour good seems to be his approach, hardly rebellious eh? Anyway, As pointed out elsewhere by me and others, the EMA is, by and large, a waste of money. Whilst I don’t agree that parents are helping the students to gain the money by mis-declaring their wages it is true that the money is seen as pocket money to be spent on fast food and games etc,. I am on what i would describe as a reasonable income and with it fully declared, my lad still qualified for EMA. For him, at least, it has acted as a disincentive to go to work and I bet the same is true for a fair few others too. And I am sorry, if a student needs paying to turn up to classes on time then he or she shouldn’t have signed up to go in the first place. As ever with Labour they only have one policy; throw money at a problem to solve a problem. It rarely works as has been proven time and time again.

  5. As a debt officer of ten years experience with a Thurrock Charity,EMA forms a vital point of many families budgets. At present there is nothing to replace EMA only a vague suggestion of help for poorer families. The Govt cuts are not hitting the less than well off in Thurrock yet but higher food and petrol costs are. It would be nice if politicians talked with people who work with the financially challenged before making changes and vague promises.

  6. Vince most people would not have a problem if they felt the money was going to those in genuine hardship but as I have recently had a child leave Palmers I believe that is not the case for alot of the students. Perhaps more help with fares, books, lunch tokens (rather than money) to make sure the money is spent in an appropriate way to help remove the genuine barriers to learning.

  7. I agree EMA was generous – Terms “Who gets the allowances?
    Payments of up to £30 a week for low-income students if they stay on at school. Students from families earning up to £21,817 receive £30 a week
    Those with household incomes between £25,522 and £30,810 receive £10 a week.” But there is no replacement and perceptions, yes were poor as much as the idea that Thurrock does not need Adult Education because “we” might build a place in future. Anyway, from my experience EMA has only done good and in more prosperous times we might still have EMA and an Adult College. Hopefully we are all going to fight to keep college.

  8. New Select Committee inquiry into 16-19 participation in education and training Summary
    The Commons Education Select Committee has announced a new inquiry into raising the participation age. This is a policy from the previous administration which the current government plans to implement. The Committee is particularly looking at:
    ■What impact the Education Maintenance Allowance has had on the participation, attendance, achievement and welfare of young people and how effective will be the Discretionary Learner Support Fund in replacing it
    ■What preparations are necessary, for providers and local authorities, for the gradual raising of the participation age to 18 years and what is their current state of readiness
    ■What impact raising the participation age will have on areas such as academic achievement, access to vocational education and training, student attendance and behaviour, and alternative provision.
    Evidence needs to be submitted by noon on 2nd March.


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