Mayor's grant to fill EMA void in Tower Hamlets
Scrapping the Education Maintenance Grant was, "a mean spirited and short-sighted action by this government," according to Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman.
Yesterday he announced a new scheme to fill the gap felt by students in the poorest borough in the country.
He said: "76 per cent of local children were on the EMA and we are not prepared for young people in this borough to be punished by a financial crisis they didn't cause.
"28 per cent of the population of the borough are under 25 and we want to see all our young people reach their full potential. The Tower Hamlets Mayor's Education Award will provide 16 to 19-year-olds with the opportunity to continue their education."
The grant which will be available from next Spring will see eligible students, those who previously received the £30 a week EMA get up to £400 a year in two installments.
Funds will top up the central government bursary which some students will also receive. Money for the new grant will come from council reserves and will total an average of £1.7 million a year.
Mayor Rahman said: "The Mayor's Education Award is designed to keep dreams alive. It gives students who might otherwise have been forced to abandon their studies a second chance.
"Last week the Department of Education confirmed that our GCSE results were the best ever and we were the third highest improved nationally despite Tower Hamlets having the highest level of child poverty..
Haydn Evans is headteacher at Sir John Cass's Foundation and Red Coat school in Stepney. He believes the criteria for eligibility for the grant will be the key to its success.
He said: "£400 is a princely sum to students and without it the negative impact means they could miss out on extra curricular work, visits and trips.
"Students have to have very high levels of attendance to qualify. To achieve high levels of achievement students need high attendance.
"If they need to get part time work this will take them away from school so with this level of financial support they will achieve more."
The grants will be available to Tower Hamlets residents who have been in the borough for at least three years.