Posts Tagged ‘EMA’

Social Mobility – the Coalition’s great leap back

16/04/2011, 04:32:17 PM

by Dan Johnson

The question ‘how many black people go to Oxford?’ sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke, unfortunately that joke is our education system and no-one is laughing.

Oxford isn’t racist, I don’t think it’s sexist, I don’t think it still has the same attitude to class that many perceive it to have. The problem isn’t the universities, it’s the government. Universities can only accept people who get the grades, and the grades of everyone in state schools depends on the funding going in to the schools, the teachers, the headteacher and their parents at home.

I should declare an interest; I’m a governor at both a further education college and an academy in my hometown of Thornaby, they are both great institutions that do a great job with the tools they are given. Unfortunately there are going to be fewer tools in future.

SureStart closures will affect those who can’t afford anywhere else, and will also remove valuable training opportunities from young mothers.

EMA has been removed from those whose family earns above the free school meal threshold (£16,190), so if you have two working parents who are both on the minimum wage you won’t get a penny, how’s that for targeting? It now emerges that the new rate won’t be £38 a week: it’ll be £30; it seems Nick Clegg thought that state schools were like private schools and only have lessons for 31 weeks of the year.

The ‘pupil premium’ will take money away from poor pupils in poor areas and give it to poor pupils in well-off areas, and that’s before you factor in an increase in the number of pupils.

The Tory answer to social mobility is to bring back grammar schools. We can see first-hand how grammar schools work, just look to Northern Ireland. The most able pupils do marginally better but the least able to significantly worse. Thankfully the government is resisting the call, but it is still creating a two-tier state system with the introduction of free schools and the roll-out of academy status to top-performing schools.

We need a well-balanced work force in the future and that requires better schools and a better start in life for many children. I don’t really care that Nick Clegg had an internship with a Finnish bank (he may need the contacts in 2015), what I care about is the scorched earth policy this government is leaving to the next generation.

Dan Johnson is the Labour party candidate in Stainsby Hill, Thornaby in the local elections this year.

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Saturday News Review

02/04/2011, 06:59:02 AM

AV campaign heats up

David Cameron has stepped up his attack on the alternative vote backed by Nick Clegg, describing the system as crazy and reminding voters that his deputy once regarded the reform as a “miserable little compromise”. He did so as the yes campaign prepared today for a celebrity-backed launch and a poster campaign beginning on Monday designed to argue the voting changes will make MPs work harder by needing to win 50% of their constituency’s support. The comedian and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard and European and world championship gold medal winner Kriss Akabusi today launch the yes campaign, with the referendum five weeks away.Other celebrities to come out in favour of the yes campaign include broadcaster Jonathan Ross, actors Nick Hoult and David Schneider, and comedian Chris Addison. – the Guardian

David Cameron last night condemned plans to scrap Britain’s historic first-past-the-post voting system as “crazy”. In his most passionate intervention yet in the electoral reform debate, Prime Minister David Cameron rubbished the proposed Alternative Vote system backed by Labour and the Lib Dems as “undemocratic” and a recipe for a “politicians’ fix”. And he risked worsening tensions within the coalition Government by mocking Nick Clegg’s switch to supporting AV. The Deputy PM had called it a “miserable little compromise” before the last election.Daily Express

‘Miserable excuse’ of an EMA replacement

Listening to Education Secretary Michael Gove on his cut-price replacement for the education maintenance allowance, I nearly burst a blood vessel. It wasn’t so much his plans, which mean thousands of students aged 16-19 being deprived of  state support, but the fact he said: “We’ve got to fix our broken education system.” What an insult to the army of teachers and students whose work and dedication over the past 13 years have seen more schools than ever labelled “outstanding”, more pupils passing five GCSEs at grades A*-C and more students going on to higher education. You haven’t done your homework Mr Gove. Go and stand in the corner. – Daily Mirror

The Government announcement this week of a £180 million bursary scheme to replace the scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) demonstrates that it is beginning to realise its mistake in cutting support for the most disadvantaged students (“Rethink in cash help for students”, Mercury, March 29). However, what the Government has offered is totally inadequate. For example, 75 per cent of students at Gateway College, in Hamilton, were eligible to receive EMA. Under the new system, they estimate that only 40 per cent will be able to receive any financial assistance. With nearly two million young people in the UK not in employment, education or training it is vital that the young people of Leicesterare given every opportunity to improve their social mobility. – Leicester Mercury

Boris Johnson has been in talks with the education secretary, Michael Gove, after calling on his Tory colleague to review the government’s policy on financial support for poor 16-19 year old students. The mayor said he fears young Londoners from low-income backgrounds could drop out of education altogether and see their life chances “radically diminished” as a result of a cut in funding. Johnson became the most senior Conservative figure to speak out against ministers’ decision to replace the £560m education maintenance allowance (EMA) budget with £180m for the new 16-19 bursaries, when he appeared on Question Time on Thursday night. – the Guardian

David ‘Keys’, sorry Willetts whips up a gender storm

Feminism has set back the cause of social mobility by decades, a senior minister has claimed. Universities Minister David Willetts said feminist policies had inadvertently halted the improvement in the life chances of working-class men and  widened the gap between rich and poor. He said feminism was the ‘single biggest factor’ in the decline in social mobility since the 1960s,  adding: ‘Feminism has trumped egalitarianism.’ – Daily Mail

The countries with the highest levels of social mobility are those with the highest levels of gender equality. David Willetts’s claim that feminism is to blame for the decline in social mobility has caused no shortage of outrage this morning. His thesis is that middle class women, who otherwise would have been housewives, snapped up university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to working class men. But to my eyes, there’s a basic empirical problem with his claim. All of the available data on the subject shows that the countries with the highest levels of social mobility are those with the highest levels of gender equality. The 2010Global Gender Gap Report, which ranks countries according to how well they “divide resources and opportunities amongst male and female populations”, puts Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden at the top, with Britain lagging behind in 15th place (a fact that suggests, pace Willetts, that the “feminist revolution” has some way to go). – New Statesman

Anger as NHS reforms steps up

The constituency offices of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley have been daubed with graffiti by anti-NHS reform activists. Cambridgeshire Police are investigating the incident at Hardwick last night when red paint was thrown at the building and “Hands off our NHS Tory scum” written on a wall. Protesters left a letter demanding to be treated as “patients, not consumers” and said: “We are taking action to fight this attack on the welfare state.” The incident happened as unions today stepped up protests against the Health and Social Care Bill which they say will lead to the NHS being privatised. – Daily Mirror

He still hasn’t got on that bike

Lord Tebbit insists on adding a tie to his outfit. “I can’t have a go at David Cameron and the bloody tieless and gormless lot and then not wear one in the photo.” He turned 80 on Tuesday, but he will not let his standards slip. Did the Prime Minister send him a card? “No he didn’t,” he says with an impish smile. “But then I didn’t send him one either.” He says he is more of a Conservative than David Cameron. The Big Society is just a “buzzword. It’s a logo looking for a product”. He wants to turn the party back to being nationalist and jokes that he would like it to go into coalition with the UK Independence Party. Chuckle. Lord Tebbit has written to the Prime Minister several times about issues, and while he always gets a reply, “sometimes I have had to give him a reminder to”. By contrast, when he wrote to Nick Clegg before the election — to tell him he how much he agreed with the necessity to raise the threshold of income tax — “I had a nice letter back”. As a joke I ask if he has more admiration for Mr Clegg than Mr Cameron, and am astonished when he says, “Yes, in a way, because I think he has pushed his agenda quite hard. I think Clegg is probably more politically motivated than Cameron.” Damning for them both. – Daily Telegraph

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How should the nation spend its windfall – the “OBR incompetence bonus”?

22/02/2011, 04:01:03 PM

The 3 members of the OBR budgetary responsibility committee, by their incompetence, have bequeathed the nation a windfall. The question surely, in which case, is how should we spend it? Restore EMA? Or the future jobs fund? Yesterday they told us we couldn’t afford to. Well today we can.

The ONS published today the level of public borrowing for the current tax year 2010/11. The OBR’s prediction was that by January, the government should be borrowing £4bn less than they did last year. Today, the figures have come out as £14bn. In fact, January was the first month since June 2008 when the government didn’t borrow.

The source of this error is the underestimation of the rise in tax receipts from the recovering economy.  This is rising at 8.4% versus the OBR’s prediction of 6.7%. Now, what’s 1.7% amongst economists?  After all, Mervyn King is running inflation 3% above his mandated rate.

However, this 1.7% is at £10bn. And that is quite a lot of money. As everyone knows, we’re facing an epidemic of youth unemployment, and restarting the future job’s fund would only cost £1bn. Re-instating educational maintenance allowance would be £1bn. And £7bn is what the government is cutting out of the welfare budget.

In fact, these errors, small as they are in economics terms, are having enormous effects on our economy and our future.

Never mind that there wasn’t a single economist that predicted the global economic crash. Forget that this is the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s, put together with the largest globally co-ordinated government fiscal and monetary intervention. How making any predictions of how the economy would perform in this backdrop wasn’t going to end up like putting be the tail on the donkey speaks volumes of the hubris of the economics profession.

The OBR’s task was always going to be difficult, but its way-off prediction of fiscal disaster has allowed this government to imperil the economic success of our future generation.

The OBR committee are their intellectual stool pigeons.

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Think again on EMA: poorer students need it

04/01/2011, 12:30:07 PM

By Dan Howells

1 January saw the closing of new applications for the education maintenance allowance. So what impact has EMA had, and what will be the impact of removing or replacing the scheme with a more “targeted approach”?

First, a few uncomfortable facts.

Only one in twelve of the poorest children lived with a degree-educated parent at nine months, compared with one in five of the richest children (Waldfogel and Washbrook, 2010).

In 2008, 55% of secondary schools in the 10% most deprived parts of England failed to achieve 30% of children getting five good GCSEs including English and maths. This is compared 3% cent in the 10% of least deprived areas.

According to the office of fair access (2010) “Bright children from the poorest homes are 7 times less likely to go to top universities than their wealthier peers”.

Just 16% of students at Russell group universities are from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Compare this to 100 elite schools accounting for one third of admissions to Oxford or Cambridge during the last five years. (more…)

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Scrapping EMA really hurts me and my friends, says Simone Webb

23/10/2010, 11:17:02 AM

Of all the cuts announced in the comprehensive spending review, the one which hit me most emotionally was the abolition of educational maintenance allowance. I have seen many arguments levied against it, from supporters of all political parties, but I have felt its impact strongly: not just in my own life, but in the lives of so many friends and acquaintances who rely on the money they get every week.

One of the arguments I hear most often against EMA is that young people should just get jobs, and make their own way in the world. To begin with, this shows a lack of understanding of just how bad the economic situation is at the moment – jobs are scarce, and likely to become scarcer under this government.

Second, it is hard to imagine that holding a job down while studying hard to achieve good grades in A Levels, or whichever course is being done, cannot affect either the job or the grades. This would not be so blatantly unfair if all students had to take jobs in order to keep afloat, but the practical situation will be that children from higher income families will not have to work during college or higher education, while children from lower income families will. In effect, students from higher income families will have however many more hours a week to study, and will achieve better grades. (more…)

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