A born winner

EDUCATIONAL maintenance allowances may be one of those pilot initiatives which, in that memorable phrase, are "doomed to succeed". It was all part of the social inclusion agenda, the raising attainment agenda, the higher expectations agenda and the "problem with boys" agenda. Besides, Chancellor Gordon Brown had decreed that it was to be extended across the country when the ink was barely dry on its evaluation.

The independent judgment of the East Ayrshire scheme is none the less that it has been successful. Cynics might say this is hardly surprising since staying the course in return for pound;40 a week is a price many will be more than willing to pay. This is especially true for the East Ayrshire students who were not stubborn school refuseniks; they were said to have had positive attitudes to school and wanted to stay on anyway if financial and family circumstances had permitted.

But the jury is still out, or these particular researchers are anyway, on whether the initiative is likely to have any effect on attainment. And that, after all, will be the real test. Staying on is one thing - but the whole point of doing so is to make the grade.

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