A critical analysis of the decision to remove Education Maintenance Allowance in England
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was introduced by New Labour in 2004, following pilot schemes which ran from 1999. The aim of it was to combat the effects of poverty and social exclusion on young people through support to continue with a post compulsory education, based on the belief that this process could generate social mobility for this group. When the Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition won the 2010 general election, a paradigm shift in ideology occurred. This was one of the factors which led to the decision to discontinue the payment in England, although the devolved Welsh Government retained EMA. Three years after the removal of EMA, there are questions arising in England as to the appropriateness of this withdrawal and the suitability of the 16 -19 Bursary Fund which has replaced it. This research aimed to add to this debate through a small scale systematic review of existing contemporary data about the importance and efficacy of EMA. Works were identified by a structured search of five data bases, utilising the same search terms in each. Five pieces of research and one set of data were retrieved according to pre determined selection criteria and were analysed systematically with an emphasis on sampling techniques, methods used, results generated and the incidence of corporate or organisational ownership of the material studied. The results showed that young people often face multiple and complex barriers to continuation in post compulsory education, which may be compounded by the effects of stigma related to support payments. It also revealed that the replacement Bursary Fund has been introduced with insufficient guidance available and an overly complicated system of administration. Two of the studies produced the notion that EMA provides a symptomatic solution to some aspects of poverty in education, but that the objectives of policies should be to target the structural causes of these issues. Overall, there was an implicit message from the reviewed materials that support allowances such as EMA are important to certain groups and should continue to be awarded on a basis of need. However, there was also a clear sense that the criteria for making and administering these payments need to be reviewed. This review also concluded that there appears to be a bias operating within the contemporary research on EMA towards empirical works utilising quantitative methods, many of which could be considered to have conflicting interests as a result of being funded by an interested party. The recommendations were made that further work on EMA should be conducted by independent researchers and should aim to glean qualitative insights into the life experiences of these young people.
BSc (Hons) Health and Social Care
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