Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Annex 2

EDUCATION MAINTENANCE ALLOWANCES—PROVISION, PROBLEMS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Aims

  Since September 1999, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has been piloting a means tested allowance for 16-19 year olds in schools and colleges within certain areas. Since September 2000 the pilot areas have been expanded from 15 to 56 (see Table 1). The aim of these allowances is to test whether financial incentives improve staying on, retention, and achievement rates. If the pilots are successful they could provide the framework for a national form of student support for 16-19 year olds.

  The areas have been chosen by the DfES for "low participation" in post-16 education, low academic achievement, relatively high deprivation and the availability of "matched" control areas. Each variant is to be tested in at least two areas and compared with a control area.

Payments

  In all but two areas, these allowances are paid directly to the student. They vary in amounts, depending on the area, but take the form of:

    —  a weekly payment of up to £30-£40, during term time only for up to 38 weeks of study;

    —  a retention bonus of between £30 and £80, paid termly;

    —  a qualification bonus of between £50 and £140.

  The payments are administered by the Local Education Authority (LEA).

Table 1

EMA PILOT AREAS AND AMOUNTS PAYABLE

Model No
Pilot area
Family income Threshold
Weekly payment
Termly Retention bonus
Achievement bonus

1
Cornwall
£30,000
£30
£50
Up to £50
Knowsley
Leeds
Liverpool
Luton
Manchester
Middlesbrough
Northumberland
Sheffield
Southampton
Walsall
Wolverhampton
2
City of Nottingham
£30,000
£40
£50
Up to £50
Oldham
3
Bolton
£30,000
£30 to parent
£50
Up to £50
Coventry
Doncaster
North Tyneside
Tameside
Wakefield
4
Birmingham
£30,000
£30
£80
Up to £140
Gateshead
Leicester City
Stoke on Trent
South Tyneside
Wigan
5
Barking and Dagenham
£20,000
£30
£50
Up to £50
Brent
Camden
Ealing
Greenwich
Hackney
Hammersmith & Fulham
Haringey
Halton
Hartlepool
Kingston upon Hull
Islington
Lambeth
Lewisham
Newham
Salford
Sandwell
Southwark
Tower Hamlets
Waltham Forest
Wandsworth
6
Barnsley
£25,000
£30
£50
Up to £50
Bradford
St Helens
Wirral
7 Hybrid transport model
North East Lincolnshire
Worcestershire
8 Pure transport model
Sunderland
East Lancashire
Suffolk


  All payments are made to the student, unless otherwise stated.

  Source:  DfES EMA guidance for the 2001-02 academic year.

Who is eligible?

  The payments are available for pupils who were in Year 11 in May 1999 (original 15 pilot areas operating in 1999-2000 only) or May 2000 or May 2001, once they enter Year 12 or equivalent. Students are not eligible if they completed their compulsory studies in 1998 or before. Students must be between 16 and 19 years old and studying a recognised course. If they reach 20, payments will cease from the week after their 20th birthday.

  Payments are available for up to two years of study, or three for students with special educational needs. However, LEAs have discretion to extend payments for a third year to other students where this is deemed to be appropriate. Students should normally be resident (ie for at least three months) in the EMA pilot area between 30 June and the start of the academic year.

  Students with refugee status can apply for an EMA. Asylum seekers who are in receipt of child benefit can also apply, providing they meet the residency criteria.

Recognised Courses

  The course must be full-time, ie at least 12 guided learning hours per week. Study may consist of two or more courses making up 12 hours or more.

  Eligible courses are those described by the DfES guidance[76] as a "recognised qualification" up to level 3. These may include:

    —  courses preparing students to obtain a vocational qualification;

    —  courses preparing students to qualify for GCSEs or AS/A levels;

    —  courses preparing students for entry into higher education;

    —  courses teaching basic literacy in English;

    —  courses teaching independent living and communication skills to persons having learning difficulties which prepares them for entry to another course.

  Exceptions may be made for students with special educational needs — ie if the student is pregnant or chronically sick.

  Less than 12 guided learning hours a week may be undertaken at home or elsewhere on a temporary basis, provided the education provider is satisfied that other elements of the Learning Agreement can be met and the course is likely to be completed.

  The course(s) must be provided by a recognised education institution, with exceptions for students with special educational needs. These will include:

    —  LEA maintained school sixth forms;

    —  a fee paying independent school;

    —  a LSC funded college;

    —  any other LEA approved institution.

The means test

  The full EMA payment is available to young people with a gross taxable family income of £13,000 per year gross or less. Payments will be tapered in £5 steps for family incomes up to £30,000. In the London boroughs the upper income limit is £20,000. Where possible, both natural or adoptive parents are means tested, on income in the tax year 6 April 2000 to 5 April 2001.

The learning agreement

  EMA recipients are required to sign a Learning Agreement as part of the scheme. This document is also signed by the student's parents (or other responsible adult) and the education provider. The Agreement should include:

    —  the learning goals;

    —  the average number of guided learning hours to be undertaken each week by the student;

    —  the number of study periods (eg terms);

    —  a summary of additional support available to the student;

    —  a statement of the student's commitment to meeting the institution's attendance requirements, unless prevented by illness or other good reason;

    —  a statement of the student's commitment to meeting the agreed study and work goals within the deadlines set by staff;

    —  the student's commitment to abiding by the published school/college rules;

    —  an undertaking by the education provider to support the student, including pastoral needs;

    —  an undertaking by a responsible adult that they will support the student and the education provider in working towards the learning goals.

  No EMA is payable unless the student, the adult and the education provider sign the agreement. If the terms of the agreement are not complied with, the EMA payments may be stopped by the LEA.

ISSUES FOR THE ROLL OUT

Administration

  The evaluation found that take up of EMAs is low amongst those who qualify for the minimal amount and that 13 per cent of refused applications were due to incomplete information. The application and means test process needs to be reviewed in order to ensure that it is simple and does not require information which parents will find difficult to provide. Ideally, there should be continuity between the means tests for EMAs and other FE Funds, and with the HE undergraduate system.

  The current means test needs attention before a roll out. Areas to eradicate include assessing the income of absent parents, which has caused problems for LEAs in collecting the information and emotional upheaval for estranged families.

The Learning Agreement

  Parents were found to have signed the LA slightly less often than students, meaning that the student would be prevented from receiving a payment. Although family support for learning is likely to increase motivation and retention, the responsibility for learning is with the student. There should be flexibility in the LA to enable students to be the sole signatory if parents will not co-operate.

Which Model? Level and Type of Support

  The evaluation showed that to encourage those who do not already participate in education to do so, the level of support should be around £40 per week, which is in line with current training allowances. Funding should go to the student, rather then the parent, in order to give autonomy and incentives.

Provision for Study up to Level 3

  Students can currently have an EMA for up to two years of study, which does not enable them to progress from level 2 to 3. Many students have found themselves left without support for their final year of level 3 study. EMA entitlement should be available for up to level 3 study.

  EMAs are currently restricted to those aged 16-19. This is an artificial cut off point for funding education. Students who do not immediately progress from school to further education have no access to statutory funding. EMAs need to be expanded to all students studying up to a level 3 qualification.


76   DfES EMA Guidance 2001-02. Back


 
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