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30 March 2011

Gove's EMA concession not enough

Demand a living allowance for Further Education students

Claire Laker-Mansfield Socialist Students national organiser

For school and college students, education minister Michael Gove's latest announcement of a scheme to 'replace' the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) will have left a bitter taste.

His new allowance scheme amounts to a mere third of the funding which was available to students previously with EMA.

This is coupled with a complete lack of clarity on how this 'targeted' financial support for students will be delivered, making it likely that many of the small number of students who are entitled to it, will not receive it.

In fact, this was the education minister's attempt to mollify some of the massive, growing opposition towards the government's spending cuts. And from this, young people and workers can take heart.

This was a retreat by the government - brought on by the huge student movement at the end of last year, as well as by the massive 26 March trade union demonstration.

The Tories and the Liberals are beginning to feel the heat, and on EMA, they are already on the back foot.

In some ways, the most important part of Gove's announcement was the promise that those students who began their studies this year will continue to receive EMA until their courses end next year. This is a small victory that has been won by mass protest, and it is very significant.

Significant, because it shows the government is being forced to backtrack. But it is also important because it means EMA will be in existence for another year - we have more time to fight to save it! Meanwhile, Southwark council in south London has pledged to initiate a scheme to continue to provide an EMA-type grant if the government scheme is abolished.

If councils across the country began implementing 'needs budgets' (which included the continued funding of an EMA scheme) and mobilised students, trade unionists and the local communities in support, then the government could be forced to find the money.

These small victories are an indication of what could be to come as the anti-cuts movement gains momentum.

The fight for education and a decent future isn't over, with a mass movement with a fighting strategy, we can defeat the Con- Dems!