Tag Archive: allowance


EMA – If they won’t give it to us
we’ll have to take it!

The abolition of the student support grant, the EMA, in England will affect some students’ ability to reach class, college principals say.

As travel fares rise and cuts bite, there are particular concerns for those in rural areas, some of whom travel up to 35 miles (56km) to get to college. Principals fear poorer students may not be able to follow the preferred course, due to unaffordable transport costs.

In the Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to axe the scheme, which was designed to keep students coming to class, saying it had very high “dead weight costs”.

The findings come from a survey of 160 Association of Colleges (AoC) members. Some 94% said they thought the abolition of the grant, worth up to £30 a week for the poorest students, will affect students’ ability to travel. The agreed the EMA is a critical factor in students’ decisions about staying in education.

The majority (78%) of colleges provide some form of financial assistance. The average spend is about £140,000 a year. But figures are far higher for land-based colleges which specialise in agricultural and horticultural courses and tend to be in rural areas.

AoC President Chris Morecroft said: “There is a danger of students getting caught in a pincer movement between cash-strapped colleges and local authorities, which have also seen severe budget cuts. “Our members are concerned that local authority subsidies may be at risk, and even where subsidies remain, fares still may be out of reach for the poorest students.

“The abolition of the EMA (education maintenance allowance) will simply compound this, leaving the most disadvantaged students struggling to get to college to gain the qualifications they need to prepare themselves for a fulfilling and productive life.

“This may be an unintended consequence of the funding cuts faced by our colleges, local government and our students, but it flies in the face of the coalition government’s avowed desire to improve social mobility.” The AoC is urging the government to reconsider its abolition of EMA funding.

A Department for Education spokesman said it was determined to make sure that no young person was put off staying in education because of transport problems. “Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to enable 16 to 18 year olds to attend education and training by making sure that transport is not a barrier”. “And we are reviewing all home to school transport including looking at transport for pupils who live in rural areas.“But let’s be clear, the deeply worrying state of the public finances has meant we’ve had to make some tough decisions. EMA was an expensive programme, costing over £560m a year with administration costs amounting to £36m, and only increased the participation in education of a minority of students”.

Kingston students marching against fees and the scrapping of the EMA. November 24th.

Students have held protests at about 30 schools and colleges in England against the scrapping of the EMA study support grant, campaigners say. But this is just the start. There are more protests planned for the 26th and 29th of January. The government says the allowances of up to £30 a week for low-income students aged 16-19 are wasteful. But the college lecturers union said their research sugested that 70% of the poorest students would drop out if it were cut.

The UCU polled more than 700 students, in the 30 colleges and schools with the highest proportion of students receiving EMA in England. 38% of those polled said they would not have started their courses without EMA, while 63% said they received no financial support from their family for college costs.

Education Maintenance Allowances were introduced by Labour to encourage young people from deprived backgrounds to stay in education and training after they reach 16. Students whose parents’ earnings fall below certain thresholds receive payments of £10, £20 or £30 a week. These can be spent however the student chooses, and are used by many students to cover the cost of course equipment, books and transport.

There have been many walk-outs and demonstrations already this year at colleges around England. The University and College Union said it knew of about 30 lunchtime protests that had taken place, in colleges ranging from London, to Liverpool, to Newcastle and Cornwall.

One of the biggest was at Dudley College, where several hundred students rallied, some in fancy dress. Students in Leeds were planning to hold a silent protest later in the day, while young people at City College Norwich were to light a candle for every student at the college who receives EMA.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU said the government’s decisions over the EMA had been a “complete shambles”. “First they pledged they would not axe it, now they say they will”. “They clearly have no understanding of how important the EMA is or the difference it makes to so many people’s chances of improving themselves,” she said.

The government says it has had to make “tough decisions” because of the state of public finances. But let US make it clear 500 million pounds is a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of tax avoidence in this country. Vodafone alone owes the public purse twelve times that amount.

We know it’s about priorities. We need to take to the streets on the 26th and 29th January. -And build for the big one, when students and workers will march sholder to sholder against all cuts and for a better future on March 26th.

Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page. Get in touch if you would like to help at our events (see events page).
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Save Our Services in Surrey have booked subsidised travel to the March 26th demonstration in London. This March is going to be the biggest Britain has ever seen. All the unions are backing it and organising coaches from all over the country.

Travel to the demonstration is only £2.00Rtn. To reserve a place on our buses go to www.saveourservic.es  Use the PayPal donate button and in the name field include the words “for bus” in brackets.Alternatively leave a message on the Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page and we’ll get back to you.
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040

Labour Party and trade unions seek to bring UK education cuts protests under control.

The British Conservative/Liberal Democrat government’s decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is part of an assault on education, which includes the slashing of college and university budgets and a tripling of university tuition fees to £9,000.

Starting in January, EMA will be closed to new applicants, and it will be ended completely at the end of the 2011 academic year. The benefit was introduced by the previous Labour government in 2004. The program costs £560 million a year and provides financial assistance to 674,000 college and sixth-form students in England, aged between 16 and 19. Students receive £30 a week if they come from households with an income less than £20,817 or £10 if below £30,810. The allowance is used by students to pay for necessities such as travel, stationary or course books.

The loss of EMA will mean many poor students will be unable to afford the attendant costs of college, particularly as more working families are hit by the economic crisis and wider government cuts. Many others will face a threat to their educational success as they resort to more part-time work—at a time when competition is increasing drastically for university places.

Over the past two months students, lecturers, sixth former and school children have protested nationwide against the education cuts, including the withdrawal of EMA, at demonstrations in many cities and towns. A feature of the protests has been the active participation of many school children and sixth form students.

The protests began in opposition to the National Union of Students (NUS), who from the outset had refused to organise any struggle to oppose the cuts. It was only when it became increasingly apparent that the protests were escalating out of the control of the NUS, that its leader Aaron Porter—a supporter of the Labour Party—made a show of supporting the protests. It was under these same conditions of a growing alienation of young people from the NUS, the Labour Party and the trade unions, that the official “Save EMA” group was formed.

The Save EMA campaign is not an oppositional movement, but a vehicle designed to promote illusions in the Labour Party and the trade unions. Its aims, as listed on its web site, are based exclusively on making calls to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to retain the EMA and writing letters to MPs.

Despite the stated intention of the government to abolish the benefit, Save EMA states its desire to “Get every party to be as clear as possible about where they stand on EMA” and to “Get those parties who oppose EMA to change their policy”.

Save EMA’s boast of providing “a voice to over half a million of the poorest young people in Britain” is a fraud. What credentials does it have to make such a claim?

The Save EMA campaign is wholly a creation of the Labour Party. It was set up by Labour Party member and staffer James Mills.

Mills, a member of the Hammersmith Constituency Labour Party in London, was a former chair of the Labour club at the University of St Andrews. He then became a parliamentary researcher to Margaret Curran, a current Labour Party MP and former Member of the Scottish Parliament. Mills is now employed as the parliamentary researcher to another Labour MP, John Robertson. Prior to this he was a member of the Ed Balls Labour leadership campaign team. Balls was a critical architect of the entire right wing New Labour formation. As a former secretary of the treasury, he worked closely for over a decade as an adviser to former prime minister and chancellor, Gordon Brown.

According to his Labourlist blog profile, Mills also interned with “the Fabian Society and Progress”. Both of these are pro-Labour Party think tanks that provided the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown Labour governments with the “intellectual” justification for their right wing, pro-capitalist agenda.

Save EMA is backed by prominent Labour Party figures, including leader Ed Miliband, 2010 leadership contest candidate Andy Burnham, MP Hazel Blears and former MP and Major of London Ken Livingstone. Another supporter is Polly Toynbee, a Guardian columnist and long-time supporter of New Labour.

Save EMA’s attempt to portray Labour as champion of education is an exercise in cynicism. It was the Labour government under Prime Minister Tony Blair, elected in May 1997, which abolished the student grant system and introduced tuition fees. Under the Teaching and Higher Education Act of September 1998, the student grant of £1,710 was abolished and replaced by student loans.

In 2004 Labour introduced the Educational Maintenance Allowance. This was partly to facilitate its declared goal of increasing the numbers of young people going to university to 50 percent, on the basis of creating a “knowledge economy”. It was able to do this at a time when the economy was still growing, based on a massive credit bubble, largely facilitated by increasing house prices. However, even as Labour introduced EMA it was escalating its attacks against higher education. The Higher Education Act 2004 enabled the introduction of variable tuition fees. From 2006-07 higher education institutions in England began charging new students variable fees of up to £3,000. In 2009-10 this rose to £3,225.

These attacks laid the basis for the Conservative/Liberal coalition government to triple tuition fees earlier this month.

Among those who voted for the increase in tuition fees in 2004 are backers of the Save EMA campaign, Andy Burnham and John Robertson. Both MPs also enthusiastically supported the war in Iraq, endorsed Labour’s dictatorial “anti-terror” laws, ID cards, and the introduction of other anti-working class measures including foundation hospitals.

For her part, Polly Toynbee is on record as being an opponent of the student protests against the coalition. In a November 5 Guardian article, she called for the EMA to be retained, whilst opposing student protests against the trebling of tuition fees and other attacks on education. Toynbee said, “There is a limit to how many protests can be heard”, adding, “My own view is that graduates come quite low in that pecking order of pain”.

This attempt to divide students from lecturers, other education workers, sixth formers and school children who are seeking to oppose all education cuts, provides grist to the mill of the Conservative/Liberal austerity programme. The filthy record of those such as Burnham, Robertson and Toynbee should be thrown back in their faces by young people seeking to oppose these measures.

But Save EMA’s attempt to present the Labour Party and trade unions as the last line in the defence of education has actually proved more effective at demonstrating how little opposition these deeply discredited and bankrupt organisations are now able to muster.

The self-proclaimed “Save EMA Day”, held by the Save EMA campaign on December 13, was set up in opposition to the ongoing protests, occupations, and strikes by student and sixth formers and came just days after the December 9 tuition fees legislation vote in Parliament. It was best described as a day of inaction.

With the backing of eight trade unions, including the NUS, National Union of Teachers, University and College Union and Unison, the day was confined to events held at lunch-time at schools and colleges. Requests were made for university students and others not to attend. Each small protest was limited to waving banners, while those in attendance were forced to listen to platitudes from Labourites and trade union functionaries seeking a photo-op. The only “action” put forward on Save EMA Day was for protesters to contact their local MP and to queue up to sign a petition.

That evening a nationwide protest to defend the EMA was held by the UCU, other unions and the Education Activist Network outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London. This managed to gather just a handful of students and a total of fewer than 100 assorted trade union officials.

The Save EMA campaign has in addition been careful to ensure they are not in any way identified with the ongoing struggles of students, which they denounce as violent. In an article on the Save EMA site, posted November 12, Mills said violence by students was “evil and wrong”. He studiously ignored the systematic brutal violence that has been meted out against protesting students, dutifully lining up behind the self-serving propaganda of the government and the police.

The constant refrain of the fake left groups such as the Socialist Workers Party is that the further development of the student protests demands above all accepting the leading role of the trade unions. This is routinely equated with students linking up with the working class. The opposite is the case. Far from a way forward, accepting the leadership of Labour, the unions or a front such as Save EMA would be the kiss of death.

Don’t let the Tories Scrap EMA.
Demonstration called by National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts.
12th January 12.00 – 3.00pm. To coincide with the vote in parliament.

Day Of Action – Bring Back EMA
Demonstration in Guildford and across the country

26th January 12.00 – 3.00pm

National Demonstration. No Fees, No Cuts Defend EMA, Education & Public Services
29th January 12.00 – 3.00pm. Central London

Unite General Secretary Len McClusky
warns of a massive wave of strikes.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, says trade unions have to work with students to build a wider anti-cuts campaign to fight government’s austerity agenda. Unite is just the latest of a raft of unions to line up behind the students and to start to prepare for the “counter offensive” TUC demonstration in March.

The UK faces the prospect of widespread and co-ordinated industrial action in the new year, with the leader of the largest trade union today warning that it is “preparing for battle” with the government over its “unprecedented assault” on the welfare state.Len McCluskey, the newly elected leader of Unite, says union leaders will be holding a special meeting in January to discuss a “broad strike movement” to stop what he described as the coalition’s “explicitly ideological” programme of cuts. Writing in the Guardian, McCluskey praises the “magnificent student movement” that has seen tens of thousands of young people take to the streets to protest at the government’s plans for post-16 education, saying it has put trade unions “on the spot”.

“Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach,” he said.

McCluskey, elected Unite general secretary last month, said trade unions had to work with students to build a wider anti-cuts campaign: “The magnificent students’ movement needs urgently to find a wider echo if the government is to be stopped.

“While it is easy to dismiss ‘general strike now’ rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle,” he said. “It is our responsibility not just to our members but to the wider society that we defend our welfare state and our industrial future against this unprecedented assault.”

McCluskey, in a hard-hitting intervention in the Guardian puts Unite and its members at the forefront of the anti-cuts campaign. We sincerely hope his words are not bureaucratic phrasemongary. He:

• Praised Ed Miliband for drawing a line under the party’s Blairite past but called for a clearer alternative to the coalition’s “austerity frenzy”.

• Said student protesters have been treated as the “enemy within” in a similar way to trade union activists on picket lines in the 1970s and 1980s.

• Criticised police tactics of “kettling, batoning and mounted charges” on recent demonstrations.

• Said the trade union movement must not be paralysed by “anti-union laws” introduced in the 1980s.

• Called for a rebuilding of confidence in working-class communities that are likely to be the hardest hit by the government’s plans.

• Accused the Tories of whipping up “austerity frenzy” in an attempt to complete “Thatcherism’s unfinished business”.

McCluskey’s comments come amid a growing anti-cuts movement in the UK and across Europe, with strikes taking place in France, Spain and Greece.

In the UK protesters against corporate tax avoidance have staged demonstrations in more than 50 towns and cities – under the banner of online campaign group UKuncut – arguing a government clampdown could bring in an extra £25bn in tax, greatly reducing the need for spending cuts.

Student leaders, who have organised four national demonstrations and scores of sit-ins to protest about the rise in tuition fees and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, are already preparing a fresh wave of protests and demonstrations in the New Year.

McCluskey said the meeting in January had been organised by the TUC and would be attended by leaders of the UK’s main unions. He said one of the first tasks was to “reach out” to the student protesters.

“Students have to know that we are on their side. We must unequivocally condemn the behaviour of the police on the recent demonstrations. Kettling, batoning and mounted charges against teenagers have no place in our society.”

Police arrested more than 180 people during the recent wave of protests. The home secretary, Theresa May, condemned the violence and blamed an “organised group of hardcore activists and street gangs”.

However, McCluskey said: “It is ironic that young people have been dismissed as apathetic and uninterested in politics – yet as soon as they turn out in numbers they are treated as the ‘enemy within’ in a way instantly familiar to those of us who spent the 1970s and 1980s on picket lines.”

Unite has signed up to the Coalition of Resistance campaign group which brings together unions with local anti-cuts campaigns across the country, he said, adding that the challenge was now to persuade people that there is an alternative to the cuts.

“Unless people are convinced not just that they are hurting – not hard to do – but also that there is a coherent alternative to the Cameron-Clegg class-war austerity, then getting millions into action will remain a pipe dream.”

He praised Ed Miliband for “drawing a line under the party’s Blairite past”, but called for a clearer dividing line between Labour and the government based on a “positive growth and tax justice programme” to tackle the deficit.

“A key part [of the alternative] must be a rejection of the need for cuts. ‘What do we want? Fewer cuts later on’, is not a slogan to set the blood coursing.” McCluskey said the TUC’s national demonstration on 26 March would be a “critical landmark” in the campaign against the government’s plans.

Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page for updates. Leave a message to get involved in the historic defence of education and the welfare state – or
Email: guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

Dates To Remember:
26th January: Guildford’s Day of Action
26th March TUC demonstration in London – Coaches are leaving from Guildford £2.00.
Email guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk to reserve a ticket