Monday 13th December 2010
"Shutting The Door On Aspirations Of Young People" - that's Chesterfield College lecturer and Union Representative James Eadon's view on the Government's proposals to withdraw EMA for young people from poor families as part of the spending review.
Toby Perkins , MP for Chesterfield with Chesterfield College students Lana Booth and Amara Linacre who had just signed the petition asking the Coalition Govt to stop the abolition of EMA
Like many places Chesterfield College took part in a national day of action today, to campaign against the cuts and make Whitehall aware of the strength of opposition to the proposed abolition of the allowance and the impact it will have on low-income families.
Over 2,000 students at the College receive the Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week.
It's means tested and therefore helps students from poorer backgrounds complete their education and has supported a rise in people from less well off backgrounds going to college.
Campaigners and students say that stopping it will mean many students could now be forced to drop out of college and we will return to a system of elitism.
The Chesterfield Post went along to their Day of Action to witness first hand the depth of feeling and implications of the possible axe and talk to those affected by this decision.
James Eadon believes it will be hugely discriminatory, telling us that, "the allowance is a vital support for poorer students, and taking it away will really affect learners. Since it started we've had an increase in retention and attendance of students which is good for their futures.
"With over 2,000 of our students receiving it, if it stops then the whole provision of places like this will be affected, failure to retain and recruit students will mean that funding will be affected too. We're told that young people should stay in education, in reality the changes being introduced will affect their ability to do this."
His message to Nick Clegg and David Cameron was clear, "They need to keep EMA. It's a really important to our poorest students and that's why its important it stays."
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins (pictured above) was supporting the Day of Action before his return to London and his work on the Shadow front bench as Education Minister.
His message to Government was emphatic, "Stop the sustained attack on the next generation - you've given us the biggest rise in Tuition fees, changed the way Higher Education is funded and now there's the impact of taking away £30 a week from 2,300 families in Chesterfield which is a drastic step and one which will make the futures of young people less bright".
He went on, "People are amazed - at the same time they reduce future jobs funds and make people pay more to go University, cutting that off for many, they then take money off students wanting to make a career in jobs like hairdressing, mechanics etc.
"They don't have the same commitment to the lifelong learning of our young people who may now have less life chances than people before them. There's a real fear amongst people that vulnerable and poorer people are being left behind.
And he had this advice for students and their families who are opposed to the cuts - "Sign petitions, write to your MP, let them know that we're not going to take this lying down - we cannot sacrifice the future of the next generation.
"The strength of feeling against these proposals needs to be known to those in Westminster who never have faced the challenges that some people do".
Samuel Stewart studies at the college, doing A-levels in Politics, Communications and Culture, and Sociology. He has been campaigning for months against the abolition of the EMA and says that for many of the students he's talked to, the allowance is quite simply, a lifeline. He feels that the Coalition has, "Declared class war and that Nick Clegg should be ashamed of himself".
During his time talking to students many have told him, "they would have to stop coming to college because they simply couldn't afford to continue - they couldn't afford transport or food .The coalition is denying students the chance to better themselves and is shattering dreams not only in Chesterfield but in town and cities across the UK."
Samuel added, "It's absolutely tragic what they have done. EMA means a lot for a lot of students - often it's the difference between them coming or not coming to college.
"It also helps in other ways - when you fill in your UCAS form for university it costs £21, each re-sit costs £18 - if you don’t get EMA how can you afford that?"
His final message on behalf of many students at the College was simple... "David Cameron and Nick Clegg - it's shameful what you've done!"
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