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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Pupils keen to be paid for learning
teeagers in a college lecture
More teenagers are going into further education
A scheme which pays teenagers from poorer backgrounds to stay on at school and college is being hailed as a huge success.

Officials in Stoke-on-Trent, one of the local education authorities chosen to pilot the education maintenance allowance scheme last year, say that 1,500 young people - approximately half of those eligible - applied for it.

As a result, many more teenagers are staying on in schools and colleges in the LEA after they reach 16.

Under the scheme operating in Stoke-on-Trent, students aged between 16 and 18 are paid up to 30 a week for attending further education courses, and receive bonuses for good attendance and finishing their courses.

Scheme extended

The allowances are means-tested against students' family income. To be eligible, young people must be from families earning less than 30,000 a year before tax.

Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire is one of 15 LEAs selected to pilot the scheme last year as part of a 100m programme.

Earlier this year, the government announced it would extend the scheme in September to another 40 areas for the second year of its three-year trial. This followed the allocation of an extra 50m to the programme in the Budget.

The scheme operates in slightly different ways in different areas, while education officials assess it to see what works best for each LEA.

In some areas, young people are paid up to 40 a week, but receive smaller bonuses for completing courses.

In other areas - where transport is a disincentive to further education - some of the allowance is spent on providing transport to enable students to get to college.

The cut-off limit for family income, which determines eligibility for the scheme, varies between 20,000 and 30,000 in different LEAs.

Potteries

A spokesman for Stoke-on-Trent City Council said that the LEA was traditionally one with poor rates for teenagers staying on at school.

This was because the area had enjoyed high rates of employment due to the Staffordshire potteries, and many 16-year-olds had followed their parents into jobs in the industry.

"But the old pottery industry as we knew it doesn't exist any more", he said.

New technology in the potteries had led to fewer jobs, and a concerted effort to diversify business in the area had meant that young people needed to learn more skills, staying on at school and college to do so.

'Students are positive'

Lynne Hardcastle, head teacher of Holden Lane High School in Stoke-on-Trent, said: "We are sure the reason that the number of pupils entering college from the school is continuing to rise is the availability of education maintenance allowance.

"The financial barrier, which prevented some of our pupils continuing in education, has been effectively removed."

Chris Brookes, director of curriculum and quality at Stoke-on-Trent Colleges, said the education maintenance allowance scheme had had a "noticeable impact on recruitment and retention".

"Students are positive about the benefits of having a weekly allowance to support their studies and the retention and achievement bonuses are clear motivators.

"Of the 474 Stoke-on-Trent College students in receipt of education maintenance allowances fewer than 10% have dropped out of their courses."

An Education Department spokesman said the scheme was proving successful on a national scale.

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See also:

11 May 99 | Education
Poor to be paid to stay in school
28 Jan 99 | Education
Grants for staying on
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