Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/687/12855
What I spent my EMA on
Jack Walker, Hull
The college I attended had a well thought out policy: 'In order to save as much money as possible, we will supply the bare minimum in textbooks, paper, pens, computers and transport.'
What the college failed to notice was the almost unbearable costs placed on my family, my mother and I.
I lived 45 minutes away from my sixth form college - just short of two miles down a very busy A-road - a journey that, I would think, warrants public transport.
However, according to the college, unless you live over two miles away, there is no reimbursement of travel costs. Consequently, I found myself having to pay for public transport when a friend who lives two streets away had free travel.
Therefore, a usual shopping list for the week included: a £20 weekly bus pass, £15-20 in lunch and breakfast and at least £5 in notepads, pens and printing costs.
This is without mentioning the huge one-off costs often required. £30 a textbook per module in A-level biology, plus numerous literature novels not stocked in the college and £300 for a mandatory biology field trip and over £100 for a trip to an archaeological site in Cumbria.
As you can see, for me, further education was a very costly experience. The only saving grace was that I was eligible to receive £30 a week Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for immaculate attendance.
With this money, I was able to cut the costs to my mum, and I began to regularly cycle down very unsafe roads in order to break even.
For low-income families, EMA is the only way to fund their children's education. However, with increased resource costs, massive education spending cuts and increasing public transport costs, the situation I faced is only going to become harder.
EMA was barely sufficient before, and now when it is needed more than ever, it needs to be higher than ever. Instead it has been destroyed.
Sixth form isn't even the end of the road. Students wanting to reach their potential are then required to invest tens of thousands of pounds and three years in a university degree.
Furthermore, I know from personal experience that to actually gain employment in a sector you have trained in, you are required to get a masters degree as well! For me, three years and a degree have got me to a supermarket checkout!
In The Socialist 28 September 2011:
Building for 30 November strike
Jarrow march for jobs
The Socialist's editorials
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party review