The possible abolition of the Education Maintenance Awards by the ConDem government is yet another nail in the coffin of higher education.

EMA placardsCameron, I speak of a new endangered species, a species that are being culled and bled.

This is not the seals of Alaska, this is not the lions of Africa and this is not the penguins of Antarctica.

I speak to you about the endangered species of thousands of college students.

Students whose very life chances and opportunities have been suffocated because of broken Condem government promises – because of one more u-turn against young people, and because of one more assault on education.

EMA is a weekly payment of between £10 and £30, s given to 16 to 18-year-olds living in households whose income is under £30,800 a year to encourage them to stay in education. The Education Maintenance scheme allowed students from poor backgrounds to have the cost of travel to school, and lunch partly covered, and thus provided an incentive to students who might otherwise have considered leaving school because of the cost of staying in school. The EMA runs out in September 2011.

David Cameron calls this crumb of support ‘hugely expensive’. But the abolition of EMA means that poor students will be starved out of education. It means that students from poor backgrounds will be forced to lower their horizons and will be totally unable to compete for jobs. It means that students from poor backgrounds will become increasingly disaffected and disillusioned. Almost 647,000 of England’s 16- to 18-year-olds receive the allowance.

The gap between the privileged and the less privileged will widen as educational achievement and University degrees will become the main divider between the better financially placed.

It is the difference between those who can buy their education and those who cannot.

It will also mean a regional divide in what will happen to young people. Parts of the country will become educational wastelands. For example; in Birmingham and Leicester, four-fifths of 16-year-olds receive the allowance.

For those who cannot afford to stay on at school their life path will be marked out much earlier, there will be less incentive for those who cannot make it to six form who will think what is the point of school at all.

What is the incentive for them? Young people will be dropping out of school much sooner in their school career. It is already estimated that the scrapping of the EMA will mean that 70 per cent of those at Sixth Form College will drop out.

The result will be that school truancy will increase, it means that pupil alienation will increase, it means that there will be a rise in school exclusion. More young people will turn to crime.

Is this the demise we want for young people?

This is not what you want and it is not what I want. Education opportunities will return to be the gains of the elite.

Standing united students plead with the government to save EMA. Our pleas have not been heard. EMA must be resurrected and reinstated.

We must resist this constant assault on education and we stand in solidarity in this. We stand to preserve and protect the future. Do not let us be defeated.

This is about saving the endangered species that is young people. Reinstate the lifeline that is EMA!

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