HC Deb 05 July 2001 vol 371 c393
9. Mr. John Grogan (Selby)

What plans she has to extend the geographical coverage of educational maintenance allowances. [877]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Ivan Lewis)

Education maintenance allowances are now available in about 30 per cent. of the country as a pilot scheme. Our manifesto said that we would build on that, drawing on the evidence of the pilots. Early results are very encouraging, and we will be considering the case for expansion in the next spending review.

Mr. Grogan

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new post, and urge him to consider extending the education maintenance allowance scheme to every local education authority in time. All evidence suggests that the scheme has been extremely effective in encouraging staying-on rates, particularly for young people from low-income families. If he is minded to have more pilot schemes, will a greater proportion be introduced in rural counties, where participation rates can be w, much of a problem as in urban areas? For example, staying-on rates in North Yorkshire declined by six percentage points in the five years to 1999.

Mr. Lewis

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and others who have done so much to draw attention to the plight of coalfield communities, attracting the resources needed to rebuild them after the wanton destruction and neglect under the Conservatives.

We made a conscious decision to pilot educational maintenance allowances, which now cover about 30 pet cent. of the country. Early evidence suggests that they are making a significant contribution to supporting young people so that they can stay in education. That is what they are for. We are anxious that, before we make a final decision on whether to extend the allowances throughout the country, we have qualitative evidence to show that they are the most effective way of delivering that objective. We believe that more and more such evidence will emerge. Early indications are indeed very positive, and when we make decisions about the future we will certainly consider the points that my hon. Friend has made.

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