The number of Scottish teenagers receiving the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has increased by 54 per cent this year after the scheme was extended to include 17-year-olds.
In 2005-06, 36,460 students received at least one means-tested payment of up to pound;30 for staying on at school or attending further education full-time. However, only 22,645 of those stayed in education for the whole year, and only 14,055 achieved both the bonuses, which are awarded twice a year for attendance, achievement, progression and behaviour.
Under the scheme, weekly payments of pound;10, pound;20 or pound;30 are made as long as attendance is acceptable and a learning agreement is completed. The additional bonus payments can be made in January and June, depending on performance. Only 62 per cent of those who did complete the year received both bonuses and 13 per cent received neither last year.
The EMA scheme was piloted in four authority areas and rolled out across Scotland in 2004 for 16-year-olds. In 2005-06 it was extended to 17-year-olds, and from January 18-year-olds will become eligible to join.
The Scottish Executive said 41 per cent of 16-year-olds in Scotland in 2005-06 claimed the payments. A greater proportion of teens at college received the highest payment of pound;30 (84 per cent) compared with those at school (78 per cent).
Fiona Hyslop, Scottish National Party education spokeswoman, said: "This report shows 41 per cent of all 16-year-olds receive it, which raises important questions about that proportion and if its intended purpose is actually working. This means that more pupils live in poor families than previously thought or that EMAs are becoming a permanent feature of school education in Scotland."