When is a child not a child?;Talkback;Opinion

15th October 1999 at 01:00
OK, so I believe in education and isn't it wonderful to hear our political masters talking so much about it and how they are going to help academically gifted children. I'm a parent of one of these and it's not been an easy ride, and, in fact, the Government doesn't help.

The crunch has now come. My son's been accelerated two years at school, and has got the grades to get into Cambridge. So what's the problem, I hear you ask?

Well, it's the money. Because we believe in "education, education education" we will lose about pound;1,600 in child allowance as he leaves secondary school because, although he's in full-time education and under 18, he's now an adult as far as child allowance is concerned.

However, he is a child for the Student Loan Authority, which has to wait two years before he is old enough to sign a legally binding document concerning any loans he takes out. There is an interesting loophole - he can borrow money from them until he's 18, but is not legally responsible to pay it back because he's underage. He can only sign the form to pay back the money after he's 18. So what if he doesn't? Why should he be forced to borrow money when he's theoretically a child?

But if he's a child, why can't he get child allowance and then he wouldn't need to borrow the money? If we had not been as interested in education and let our child be totally bored at school we would have had the full child allowance and no financial problems foisted on us. What a disincentive for gifted students!

Alastair Gunn lives in Maldon, Essex

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