HUNDREDS of students have signed a petition calling for the return of a grant that helped less well-off teenagers through education.
Vijay Jackson, vice president of student welfare at Sussex Coast College, handed over a petition signed by more than 200 people to Hastings MP Amber Rudd on Friday (March 8) urging for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to be reinstated.
The scheme was scrapped two years ago and offered financial assistance towards transport costs and other essentials for students from low-income households studying at college. It was replaced by the 16-19 Bursary Fund.
Vijay, of Decimus Burton Way, St Leonards, who is studying the International Baccalaureate, said: “Students from low-income families could get up to £30 a week from the Government under the EMA. The new scheme is quite ineffective as there are a lot less people now who are eligible. The EMA had a budget of £500 million but the bursary scheme’s is only £150 million a year. The EMA was scrapped because of budget cuts.
“It’s made it more of a financial struggle for many students. The Government is expecting us to have part-time jobs but there are not enough around. There is an Early Day Motion calling for the EMA to be brought back.”
Ms Rudd said: “I welcome engagement by students in all aspects of political life. Education Maintenance Allowance was a hugely expensive and badly targeted programme. We now have the Bursary Fund that offers more targeted support to the most vulnerable young people, which is administered by schools and colleges as we believe that they are best placed to identify which of their students need support and how it can best be provided.
“Along with many MPs, as a matter of principle, I do not sign any Early Day Motions as they carry no weight, they do not result in policy outcomes, and they are very costly. However, I encourage all students who are struggling financially to contact their school or college about the funds available.”