Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Minister axes students' EMA bonuses to save 100m

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Pupils with family incomes less than 30,810 can benefit

Bonus payments for pupils who stay in schools or colleges in England are being axed to try to save almost £100m.

Pupils on the means-tested Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) scheme are currently entitled to an extra £100 every six months they stay in college.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said the cash would be used to expand the basic scheme - giving poorer pupils up to £30 a week - to an extra 80,000 people.

There would be an extra 140,000 places in England in 2010, he said.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Balls said: "Young people shouldn't need a bonus of £100 every six months to convince them to stay on - not on top of the weekly money they're receiving."

Administrative delays

He added: "This reform will save almost £100m per year and it means I can fund the weekly allowances to thousands more young people who are staying in education or training.

"Some people will be disappointed, but in these tough times it's the only way to keep expanding opportunities to more young people."

Mr Balls said he wanted to boost the number of apprenticeships and places in sixth forms, colleges and training.

The decision comes a year or so after the EMA scheme was hit by major administrative delays, similar to the crisis with the student loans system - leaving thousands of pupils without their weekly payments.

Scores of colleges around England were left providing pupils with emergency funds to encourage them to stay on.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said the overall EMA budget is being increased to almost £580m as a result of the twice yearly bonus being scrapped.

Students will continue to receive bonuses in January and July 2010, but from 2011 they will no longer be paid.

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