Number of students given EMA drops
The number of college students receiving an education maintenance allowance has fallen by 1,405 - from 13,660 to 12,255 - in 2011-12, according to figures published this week by the Scottish government.
This is the second drop in two years and equivalent to a 15 per cent drop since 2009-10.
Labour's shadow education secretary Hugh Henry suggested the figures reflected a cut in college places.
"This SNP government should not be putting up barriers which keep poorer students out of college. It's time to reverse these cuts in college funding," he said.
Figures for uptake in schools showed a slight increase - to 22,135 from 21,120. A third of pupils aged 16-19 received an EMA. Overall uptake, however, was 1.1 per cent down from 2010-11 - 34,390 compared with 34,780 - although the total spend on EMAs was higher - #163;27.6 million compared with #163;27.2 million in 2010-11.
A spokesman for the Scottish government said that since 2008 there had been an increase in the rates of pupils staying on at school to S6 (55.6 per cent in 2011 compared with 44.6 per cent in 2008). This could explain the rise in school-based recipients and the drop in college-based recipients, he said.
In addition, there had been a fall of 1.8 per cent in the number of 15- to 19-year-olds in the Scottish population between 2010 and 2011.
The increase in EMA spend vis-a-vis the drop in overall uptake was explained by the fact that weekly payments of #163;10 and #163;20, payable according to household income, had been withdrawn from new entrants in 2010, he added.
The EMA scheme was launched in Scotland in 2004 to support 16-year-olds who otherwise would not have been able to attend school. It was extended to cover 16- to 19-year-olds from 2007-08.
It initially consisted of weekly payments of #163;10, #163;20 and #163;30, depending on household income, and two additional bonus payments of #163;150 linked to attendance and completion of a learning agreement. The Scottish government, however, removed the #163;10 and #163;20 payments in 2009 and in 2010 it withdrew the bonus payments.
THE SURVEY SAYS ...
A survey by Skills Development Scotland, which showed 92 per cent of modern apprentices were still in work six months after completing their apprenticeships, was also published this week.
It also revealed 87 per cent of MAs were satisfied with their training and 80 per cent felt more confident in their abilities. Two-thirds felt they had better long-term prospects.
First minister Alex Salmond said the results "demonstrate the value of MAs, both to the individuals concerned, the companies that employ them and the wider economy".