Written evidence submitted by Platform
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
1. As part of Platform 51's education offer,
we previously provided Entry to Employment (E2E) learning and
now provide Foundation learning. We also prepare and support young
women into college and work with girls in college to support them
to remain in training. Young women we work with tell us that the
Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is essential to cover their
basic expenses associated with staying on in education or training.
For many it pays for transport costs to and from college and any
placement they may be involved with. For others it covers books
and other materials needed for their course. For those who have
placements, EMA is used to buy necessary clothing. And for others,
it provides money for food. A significant proportion of girls
we work with in this age group currently qualify for EMA therefore
the removal of this will inevitably negatively impact on other
girls we work with.
2. Platform 51 strongly opposes the removal
of the EMA
3. We know from our work with girls and women
that EMA is and has been one of the main reasons why they access
Foundation Learning in the first place and without it they would
have opted to try and get paid employment rather than staying
on in education.
4. Evidence from a survey by the University and
College Union (UCU) showed that seven in ten students (70%) who
receive EMA would drop out of college if it was withdrawn, and
that nearly two-thirds (63%) do not get any help from their families
to meet study costs.
Furthermore, evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed
that EMA increases participation and pays for itself in the long
5. We recently conducted a survey with twenty
young women in one of our centres situated in an area of multiple
deprivation, who currently receive EMA. Of these, all 20 stated
that they would not have been able to attend college without it
and that if they did not continue to receive any financial support
they would have to drop out.
6. These young women felt strongly that removal
of EMA would prevent girls and young women from gaining professional
qualifications and negatively impact on women's equality in employment
in the longer term. They also felt that supporting girls and young
women to stay in education and training contributed to increased
self-esteem and would help reduce rates of teenage pregnancy
7. According to evidence from the 157 Group of
large colleges, despite coming from the poorest families and in
some cases having low level qualifications, EMA students miss
fewer classes and are more likely to stay in education than students
from higher income families. Retention rates of those on EMA are
8. In our view, EMA also encourages skills necessary
for the workplace such as punctuality, meeting educational targets
and displaying professional behaviour.
9. Discretionary Learner Support
10. Platform 51 has concerns about the Discretionary
Learner Support. We are particularly concerned that the amount
available to young people is likely to be significantly reduced.
11. Platform 51 believes that any enhanced Discretionary
Learner Support fund must ensure that all young people have the
basic requirements to allow them to learn and stay in education
12. The Discretionary Learner Support fund must
ensure that all barriers to learning are taken into account. For
example, transport costs (taking into account differences in rural
areas and the need for additional transport costs if students
are on placements); resources and materials; and adequate clothing.
13. The Government must ensure that information
about the Discretionary Learner Support fund reaches all communities.
Young people who need support should never miss out due to lack
of information or knowledge.
14. The Government must ensure that information
about the Discretionary Learner Support fund is available from
an early stage. Young people need to know well before enrolling
on a course what support is available so they are able to make
15. It is essential that the Discretionary Learner
Support fund is never used as a way to "cherry-pick"
young people into education. This could leave those with more
difficult past histories unable to afford to remain in education
16. Allocations of the Discretionary Learner
Support fund must be in the hands of the providers well before
enrolment day to ensure that young people who will be given financial
support do not encounter hardship in any intervening period.
17. The Discretionary Learner Support fund should
provide some form of income directly to young people directly
as this empowers them and encourages them to learn independent
life skills by managing their money.
18. The Discretionary Learner Support fund should
ensure that young people facing the biggest barriers to participation
are supported, including those living independently, those who
have few or no qualifications, those on the lowest incomes, looked
after young people and young parents.
19. 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
20. Platform 51 supports the raising of the participation
age as it has the potential to support young women to achieve.
However, this in itself will not automatically increase achievement.
For many girls and women we work with formal education did not
work for them and they disengaged at an early age. It is therefore
essential that personalised support is available to young people
from an early age which recognises the reasons why and how they
disengage. Furthermore, our work with girls and young women shows
us that girls and boys disengage from formal education for different
reasons and we believe that there needs to be an explicit gender
analysis of young people's disengagement from formal education.
21. We believe that there needs to be greater
investment in alternative provision to mainstream education such
as that provided by organisations such as Platform 51 and that
this needs to be a core part of the plans to raise the participation
age. We provide alternative education and have experience of working
with the most disengaged through identifying and addressing barriers
22. High quality information, advice and guidance
is essential to the success of raising the participation age.
Girls and women we work with often tell us that they either did
not receive any careers advice or that if they did, it was unhelpful
or steered them towards traditionally "female" pathways
such as childcare or hairdressing. Young people need to be able
to make informed choices about the paths they take. If they take
a pathway which is not right for them without the support to identify
what is right, the likelihood of disengagement will increase.
25 March 2011
59 - http://www.ucu.org.uk/5208 Back
"An efficient education maintenance allowance?", Institute
for Fiscal Studies, Haroon Chowdry and Carl Emmerson, December,
2010, http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/5370 Back