Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Cornwall Council 'must try harder' on EMA

This Friday there will be a discussion on the details of Cornwall Council's plan for a local Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). Whilst the concept of a Cornish EMA is very good and Lib Dems have welcomed it, we're very disappointed with the details of what is being proposed. The Council can and should do better.

My colleague Graham Walker has made the following statement about the plans:

"We welcome the proposal for a local fund to help the 7,647 16-19 year olds worst hit by the withdrawal of EMA, 90% of whom qualified for free school meals. But the council has been very vague until now about how such a proposal would work. Now that we have seen the details, we are very disappointed. The Council can and must do better for local students and pupils."

"The scheme will only help learners at the highest level of study - mainly academic A-levels and AS-levels. Whilst there are many pupils studying at this level who need help, there are many others studying at Further Education colleges who will miss out. We should not be putting forward a scheme which helps only the most academically gifted, particularly given the additional challenges faced by many FE students."

"The scheme also discriminates against those in the East of Cornwall who study in Devon. There are 500 such students who will be ignored by this proposal. For most, this is not a choice but the only practical option to continue their education. We believe that all students from Cornwall should be considered on an equal basis."

"The administration appears to have drawn up their scheme without talking to young people about it. This is a crucial omission which perhaps explains why the proposed scheme is so weak. Liberal Democrats will be asking the Cabinet Member to consult properly and come back with a better scheme."

On Friday we will see how the administration responds.

1 comment:

socialmedia said...

Neil Burden, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for children's services,says:
Sadly, once again, Councillor Folkes has chosen to air ill informed criticisms about a positive Council initiative rather than support a scheme which will benefit many more young people in Cornwall than the funding available for the national scheme would otherwise allow.

It is simply not true to say that this will only help young people studying academic A levels - it will also be open to those studying GCE applied subjects, BTEC awards and NVQ’s. While learners on vocational courses already receive support from other sources, many of the 9,000 young people studying at level 3 are not eligible to apply for this funding. The aim of our scheme, which is designed to complement the national Bursary scheme, is to help these young people.

We recognise that the proposals have implications for Cornish young people who choose to study in Devon – but I totally reject the allegation of discrimination. The limitations to the scheme are as a result of using the FE colleges and school sixth forms in Cornwall to administer our scheme rather than doing it ourselves. This will save £70,000 which can be used, instead, to directly support more students. We only have a limited amount of funding available for this scheme and want to make sure that every penny goes on supporting our young people rather than on central admin costs.

We are the only local authority in the country which is considering setting up such a scheme and I am very proud of what we are trying to achieve. Surely it is better to have the scheme in place as quickly as possible so we can provide practical help for our young people rather than carry on talking about it. Our scheme is designed to support those young people facing the greatest financial barriers to learning who are not eligible to receive any other sources of funding.