Ken Livingstone speaks out against the EMA cuts at BSix sixth form college

London’s previous mayor Ken Livingstone joins Hackney students on a demonstration against cuts to Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA) today.

The demonstration is part of a national day of action, Save EMA Day, as colleges and sixth-forms around the country hold lunchtime protests against the coalition government’s plans to axe financial support which critics say would leave many students unable to continue their studies.

Starting at BSix sixth form college and finishing at Hackney Town Hall, the demonstration has been organised by the Save EMA Campaign.

There are currently 3,647 recipients of Educational Maintenance Allowance in Hackney, and 95,219 in London as a whole.

EMAs were introduced nationally in September 2004. EMAs are a means-tested allowance of between £10 and £30, paid to 16- to 19-year-olds who stay on in education and whose household income had to be less than £30,810 per year.

In March of this year, the education secretary Michael Gove said:  “Ed Balls keeps saying that we are committed to scrapping the EMA. I have never said this. We won’t.” However, EMAs were axed in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Ken Livingstone said:  “The abolition of Educational Maintenance Allowances will deter thousands of teenagers in London from learning new skills and gaining valuable qualifications and work experience.

‘The combination of EMA cuts and huge hikes in tuition fees threaten to deny opportunities to future generations of Londoners and entrench inequality.

‘Now more than ever, students in London need our support to oppose these hugely damaging cuts yet there the silence from the Mayor is deafening. It’s time Boris Johnson put the interests of students before the interests of the Conservative Party.”

Those receiving the maximum £30 payment make up 80% of all recipients and their household income is below £20,817 per year.

A survey carried out by the NUS in 2008 found, 65% of participants on the £30 rate stated that they could not continue to study without EMA. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows attainment at GCSE and A-level by EMA recipients has risen by 5 to 7 percentage points since its introduction, and by even more for those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods.

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington

Update: 4.35pm Monday 13 December 2010

Diane Abbott MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Shadow Minister for Public today spoke in support of students at BSix college who held a demonstration to oppose the coalition government’s decision to scrap Educational Maintenance Allowance.

Ms Abbott voted against the rise in tuition fees last Thursday, saying she believes the decision will deter many young people from staying on in higher education and may increase the number of NEETS (young people not in employment, education or training) as more are pushed into an already saturated job market.

Diane said today: “I wholeheartedly support the students at BSix in marking Save EMA Day today.

“Now more than ever it is important that students stand together. With the scrapping of the EMA and the rise in tuition fees, the coalition government is making unprecedented threats to our higher education system that are going to have huge effects here in Hackney.

“Thousands of youngsters receive EMA in Hackney, and for many it makes all the difference in the difficult choice whether to stay on into higher education or head out to work. Taking away this choice will force many into an already saturated job market.

“The coalition [government]’s decisions are incredibly short-sighted and unfortunately will mean young people in Hackney have to take on further burdens and debts just to gain the education that I, and many other politicians, were able to enjoy for free. I will continue to oppose these threats and support students in Hackney and up and down the country.”

More about the Save EMA campaign.