HC Deb 04 July 2002 vol 388 cc380-1
5. Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell)

What assessment she has made of the impact of educational maintenance allowances. [64400]

The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education (Margaret Hodge)

An independent evaluation of EMAs has been taking place since 1999. Further evidence from the second year was published yesterday. The findings so far are highly encouraging. EMAs have produced large increases in participation among the target group, not only in the first year of post-compulsory education but into their second year as well.

Mr. Challen

What does the evidence show for levels of commitment to study, performance and retention rates among young students, particularly those from lower income brackets? I understand that evidence shows that parents are not taking up EMAs on their child's behalf as much as they perhaps should and, indeed, that application levels are reduced by incomplete forms.

Margaret Hodge

The evidence that we published yesterday is highly encouraging. It shows that in year 12 we have a 6 per cent. increase in the number of young people in full-time education—that is 1 per cent. up from the last evaluation—and a 7.3 per cent. increase in the number of young people staying on in year 13, so the retention is good. In particular, there have been increases in the number of young men, which we are pleased about, people in urban areas, which is also good news, and those who are eligible for the full maintenance allowance, which suggests those who come from the poorest backgrounds and is also good news.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)

What evidence was there about attainment?

Margaret Hodge

It is very early days to get good evidence on attainment, but it is beginning to emerge. Good evidence shows that at levels one and two qualifications attainment is up. There is also an increase in the number of young men choosing to go into higher education. I would not want to suggest that those are completely definite results from the attainment data, because it is too early. We must wait for good, solid data before we can draw permanent conclusions.

Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough)

There is no doubt that the educational maintenance allowance pilots have been an outstanding success in my two local education authorities, Barnsley and Doncaster, where staying-on rates have increased by more than 5 per cent. Is the Department monitoring the types of courses taken by EMA students in terms of the split between academic and vocational courses? It might be useful to see whether there are different trends between courses taken by EMA students and by non-EMA students.

Margaret Hodge

We are monitoring that data as well. We are developing our proposals for 14 to 19-year-olds to try to raise the status of vocational qualifications and to ensure progression for those undertaking vocational routes right through into higher education. We will ensure that opportunities are available to people from all backgrounds wishing to pursue all sorts of options for later careers.