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Over-19s to be given study grants

ADULTS ON low incomes are to receive the same grants as teenagers from poorer families to support them in studying towards qualifications.

The Adult Learning Grant will be available across England from September after the FE funding body declared a pilot scheme, begun in 2003, to be a success.

Students over the age of 19 working towards their first level 2 or level 3 qualifications - equivalent to GCSEs or A-levels - will be eligible for the payments of up to pound;30 a week in term-time if their income is below Pounds 19,000, or pound;30,000 for couples.

It matches the money on offer to 16- to 18-year-olds to encourage them to stay on in education after school under the pound;500 million education maintenance allowance scheme.

In four years of operation as a pilot scheme, the allowance for young people raised participation rates by nearly six percentage points. The incentives were particularly effective for male teenagers, semi-skilled and unskilled workers, and the unemployed.

The total budget for the adult grant is pound;35 million, enough for payments to more than 35,000 people, compared to the 500,000 teenagers receiving cash for their studies.

Mark Haysom, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, said: "We found that many people felt held back in their careers by a lack of skills, but often financial problems stopped them from learning these skills. In pilot areas, ALG has already started to help people cross this barrier.

"It's great to see that 95 per cent of people involved in the pilot campaign have applied for courses that teach job-related skills which will help them progress in their careers."

Adult students have been more likely to finish their courses in the 24 areas where the grants have been introduced, with the average completion rate rising from 85 per cent to 93 per cent, according to the LSC.

Phil Hope, the skills minister, said: "This Government's sweeping reforms to raise skills and improve people's life chances mean that the Government will support low-income learners to ensure that they are not prevented from participating in learning and training."

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