EMA replacement could be discriminatory

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Plans to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance with bursaries totalling £180m a year could lead to discrimination, according to a government equalities assessment.

According to the Equality Impact Assessment the government is considering "some central arbitration", but the assessment says the process is open to unintended discrimination on the basis of disability, gender or ethnicity.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "As we have always said schools and college will have freedom in how they allocate the bursaries to their students. We want to work with colleges to make sure that money is fairly allocated.

"The fact is consultation has not yet finished but we will consider what mechanism might help support colleges and students in making sure the money gets to those who need it."

The government's consultation on how the bursary scheme will work finish at the end of May.

Shadow education secretary, Andy Burnham, said: "Michael Gove promised a better scheme for the poorest young people but now his own department says it is open to discrimination.

"He has taken a successful scheme that was good value for the taxpayer and turned it into a complete shambles."

The £560m EMA scheme had provided up to £30 a week to help low-income students stay on at sixth forms and colleges.

The replacement student support scheme is intended to target funding at those most in need. The biggest amounts - £1,200 per year - will be given to 12,000 teenagers with the greatest needs, such as pupils in care, care leavers and the severely disabled. After these payments, from the £180m overall funding, there will be £165m for colleges and schools to make discretionary payments to support low-income students with costs such as transport, food and books.

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