Government defeats bid to save EMA


Students hand out 'Save EMA' biscuits, outside the Houses of Parliament during a day of protests

A bid by Labour to prevent the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) being scrapped has been defeated in the Commons.

The party’s call for Education Secretary Michael Gove to rethink his controversial decision was defeated by 317 votes to 258, Government majority 59.

It followed a full day’s debate in which Mr Gove was told he had “thrown into reverse” the social mobility that EMA had given hundreds of thousands of students from poorer backgrounds.

The debate in the Commons came as thousands of students marched in central London against the plans to scrap the payment, which is paid to around 650,000 16 to 18-year olds in England.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham claimed the “incredible” human and social progress made since the 1980s would be “thrown into reverse” by the axing of EMA. It had helped boost the staying-on rate in education from 47% 25 years ago to 82% now, Mr Burnham claimed.

He said there was a “compelling case” to keep EMA for educational, social, economic and democratic reasons.

The weekly payments of between £10 and £30 for young adults living in households earning under £30,800, was “overwhelmingly used to provide the basics to support education” such as travel, books, equipment and food.

He angrily condemned coalition MPs as “hopelessly out of touch” who tried to claim that 90% of students didn’t need the cash to make them stay on in further education.

Mr Burnham hailed the increase in the staying-on rate since the 1980s, telling MPs: “In the last 10 years the EMA has played an important part in that progress. It has sent out an empowering message of hope that you can dare to dream, whoever you are and wherever you come from. But sustaining the progress has to be worked on. Instead it is about to be thrown into reverse.”

But Mr Gove said Labour had failed to set out its position on a range of education policies and had instead focused on EMA despite the economic difficulties.

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