Where's the (real) evidence?

11th February 2011 at 00:00

The Government's determination to stick with its decision to scrap the education maintenance allowance (EMA) suggests an ideological belief that people should stand on their own feet, even if they are only 16. The only "evidence" presented against the EMA was a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research. But this report is not about the EMA.

Entitled Barriers to Participation in Education and Training, it makes no recommendations about the allowance and only makes specific reference to it in three places in its 88 pages. In following the argument that "only 12 per cent of young people . believe that they would not have participated in the courses they are doing if they had not received an EMA", ministers ignored the 18 per cent who said they would have done a different course or training if they had received more money to cover transport, books, equipment or food.

We should not be surprised that governments ignore the weight of rational evidence when it suits them. At the point when major cuts and significant curriculum upheaval are about to hit the education sector, all politicians should reflect on the esteem with which they are held in schools and colleges.

Nigel Robbins, Executive director, Tertiary Colleges Group.

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