Delay danger;Leading Article;Opinion

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
A BOLD move to entice more students from low-income families to college with grants of up to pound;40 a week has been critically undermined by lack of cash - just as Education Secretary David Blunkett was warned it would be one year ago.

The decision to pilot education maintenance allowances for 16 to 19-year-olds was long overdue (page 1 and FE Focus). But to restrict them to 12 pilot areas and then to pool what little cash there was nationally to help fund them was daft.

In Nottingham (a pilot area), students are signing up in droves. But in Lancashire, where each college has lost up to pound;200,000 from its hardship fund, colleges fear an exodus of the county's impoverished students.

The Lane Committee which drew up the allowance recommendations warned Mr Blunkett that new money would be needed and that any pilot should be short. Instead, a three-year limited scheme was agreed, with woefully inadequate new money.

Lane showed that poverty was a key reason why students drop out of school and college, just as had earlier been shown in higher education. Nottingham has proved that cash makes a difference. Ministers must not wait another two years before taking action.

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