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Published by by Pete Henshaw

The row of the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has been brought to the fore again just ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget. As SecEd went to press, the

Chancellor George Osborne was due to deliver his budget to Parliament on Wednesday (March 23), in which he was expected to confirm cuts to the grant. Campaigners are still lobby-

ing to reverse the decision and the Save EMA campaign group last week published on open letter in the Guardian signed by 10 leading UK economists. Signatories included Jonathan

Portes, former chief economist at the Cabinet Office and director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Professor John Van

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Leading economists back EMA campaign

Reenen from the London School of Economics, and Robert Rowthorn, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge. The letter spells out their sup-

port for the Save EMA campaign. It said: “When figures show youth unemployment at an unacceptable level, the last thing our country should be doing is removing or cut- ting support to that very age group. “More importantly, extensive

quantitative evaluations of the EMA have shown that it has sig- nificantly improved both staying-on rates and qualifications for students from poorer backgrounds.” The government voted by a

majority of 59 earlier this year to scrap the EMA. The decision was made despite public support for the EMA from education minister Michael Gove and prime minister David Cameron before the general election.

Call to give Scottish heads more power

Headteachers should have the power to develop education policy at school level, according to a report commis- sioned by the Scottish government. Clusters of primaries and sec-

ondaries with pooled budgets are also among the recommendations in a review of the current system for devolving power from local authorities. The report, by David Cameron,

a former council director of educa- tion, will add to the debate over how schools should be managed. Some headteachers are already

in charge of 90 per cent of their budget – or about £3 billion of Scotland’s education funding – but others are calling for total control. Mr Cameron argued that the ben-

efit in devolving budgets to schools was negated if they could not make decisions about those budgets. “The percentage of funding

devolved to the school is far less important than establishing its capacity to make effective decisions with the budgets for staffing, staff development, resources, additional support needs, repairs and mainte- nance, where they are free to make decisions about that budget,” he wrote in his report. He also called for a formula to be

St Jude’s Church, Dulwich Road Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB

established that would ensure parity of resources among similar schools. Last year independent educa-

tional consultant Keir Bloomer said schools should be taken from coun-

cil control and funded directly by the Scottish government. Mr Bloomer argued that the new

system would allow headteachers to form education policy at school level in line with a community’s needs. East Lothian Council has also

started a pilot that hands part of its schools’ budgets to parents. But most primary headteachers

in Scotland favour keeping educa- tion under council control, accord- ing to a recent survey. Michael Russell, the education

secretary, said the findings in Mr Cameron’s report could help in the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence. However, Cosla, which repre-

sents councils, said the report was “hasty” and short on detail. It also argued that giving schools too much financial autonomy could put them at risk. A spokesman said: “If we are

not careful we could create a situa- tion where schools run a far higher financial risk than is currently the case, where local authorities pro- vide a buffer against financial chal- lenges. “The last thing anyone wants to

see is schools or clusters of schools going deeply in the red or even bust. There remain significant political, practical and educational issues with some of the recommendations and they all need further careful, deep and thoughtful consideration.”

Wales is hailed for setting children’s rights into law

Wales has become the first coun- try in the UK to make the United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) part of its domestic law. The creation of the Rights

of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure has been hailed an “historic move” by the Welsh Assembly government and chil- dren’s charities. The Assembly government

says the legislation aims to build on existing rights for those aged 25 and under as well as strengthening their position in Welsh society. A new website (pictured

above) has been created to help teachers understand the new leg- islation. Deputy children’s minister Huw Lewis said: “This is a ground

breaking measure and places Wales ahead of the UK in making the UNCRC part of its domestic law. This law cuts across every policy area and in doing so will make a positive change to the way in which all support and services for children in Wales will be designed and deliv- ered in the future.” Keith Towler, children’s com-

missioner for Wales, hailed it a “landmark piece of legislation”, adding: “We should be very proud that Wales and its government are leading the way yet again in secur- ing children’s rightful place as full citizens of our nation. We must now ensure this legislation makes a practical, positive difference to children’s lives.” Anita Tiessen, deputy executive director, UNICEF UK, was equally

supportive. “This new law putting children’s rights at the heart of all Welsh policy and practice sets the bar high for the rest of the UK,” she said. Although there is still work to be done to ensure chil- dren’s rights are a reality for every child, this is a significant step.” Andrew Chalinder, head

of Save the Children in Wales and chair of the Wales UNCRC Monitoring Group, added his sup- port welcoming what he described as “an historic moment for the chil- dren and young people of Wales.” Teachers can use the new

Save the Children’s website to have a better understanding of children’s human rights and how to translate them into prac- tice. For more information, visit

MA Education Ltd is an independent publishing company also responsible for education titles Delivering Diplomas, Headteacher Update, Fundraising for Schools, Early Years Educator and 5to7 Educator.

© All rights reserved. No part of SecEd may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of MA Education The publisher accepts no responsibility for any views or opinions expressed in SecEd.

ISSN 1479-7704 Scientists in Sport aims to inspire students

Eight out of 10 secondary school students are worried about their future job prospects, it has been claimed. It follows a study of 1,000 11

to 16-year-olds released to mark the launch of the Scientists in Sport education programme this week. The study also found that just two


per cent of students aspire to a career in science, despite the fact that 80 per cent said they enjoyed the subject. The new programme is made

up of a number of free events tak- ing place between now and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. The aim is to offer school children aged 11 to 14 the opportu-

nity to spend a day at a university and take part in sports-based lec- tures and interactive science work- shops. The programme also aims to

showcase how science is being or could be used in the Games, such as in anti-doping drugs tests or how “eye-tracker scanning” could

improve how football teams perform in penalty shoot-outs. It was launched by pharmaceu-

tical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) alongside King’s College London. GSK director of aca- demic liaison, Malcolm Skingle, said: “Young people in the UK clearly have an enthusiasm for

practical, hands-on science. Scientists in Sport demonstrates how business and academia can work together to encourage more young people to study science at university.” For

teaching resources

and further information, visit

SecEd • March 24 2011 The EMA is aimed at helping

disadvantaged students to stay on in further education and costs the government £560 million a year. Weekly payments are given based on attendance, punctuality and achievement. Students with fam- ily incomes of less than £21,817 receive £30 a week; those with family incomes between £25,522 and £30,810 get £10. In their letter, the economists

pointed to evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, pub- lished in 2005, which concluded that the EMA “significantly increased” participation rates in post-16 education and that its impact was “substantial”. They continued: “The govern-

ment has chosen to ignore this rig- orous and independent evidence, and has instead argued that the abolition of EMA is justified by high levels of ‘deadweight’ – that is,

that many young people in receipt of EMA would remain in education even without it. “Even if this is true, it is not a

sound economic argument for abol- ishing EMA – it could equally be argued that the government should not vaccinate children against meningitis or polio, since the vast majority wouldn’t contract these diseases anyway.” The government has said it will

bring in new funding to make up for the loss of EMA. It claims that the current £30-a-week system could be better targeted at poorer students with a discretionary fund administered by colleges. The level of funding for this is currently £26 million, which the government has said it hopes to triple. The letter comes as the Save

EMA campaign continues to inves- tigate the possibility of taking legal action. It says this could be based

on current students who believed that their two-year contracts for study have been breached by the government’s decision. Advice is currently being pro-

vided by trade union lawyers who are examining whether they can win payments for students who began courses in September and who expected the financial support to continue throughout their two- year courses. Shadow education secretary

Andy Burnham said: “In his Budget, George Osborne has an opportunity take action against the risk of a lost generation of young people. Mr Osborne should listen to the econo- mists telling him that scrapping EMA is a mistake. His Budget must ensure there is sufficient financial support available for those young people who have the talent but not the financial means to stay on in education.” Visit

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