Brent student criticises cuts to education maintenance allowance

Education cuts leaves talented student considering dropping out

A STRUGGLING student has spoken out against Government plans to scrap an education maintenance allowance paid to poorer pupils.

Kayleigh Mills, 18, lives with her nan in Cobben Close, Queensbury, and travels several miles a day to make the trip to the College of North West London (CNWL) in Dudden Hill Lane, Willesden, where she is studying to become a mechanic.

Talented Miss Mills, one of only two girls in her intake, passed all her modules last year and is expected repeat this success in her second year.

But she fears that all her hard work could be for nothing after ministers announced they are axing the education maintenance allowance (EMA), paid to poorer pupils and worth up to �30 a week.

Miss Mills said: “It is quite bad because I often need it for travelling or lunch at college or buying my overalls and books that I need for my course.

“I would really struggle to get into college and get the equipment I need without it. This might make me think again about pursuing the course. If I don’t get the money I might have to drop out.”

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Some 3,684 young people living in Brent receive EMA, which is paid straight into the student’s bank account and is intended to help meet the costs of travel and buying books and equipment.

Miss Mills, who is a delegate on the prestigious Brent Youth Parliament, where she helps influence the council’s policy on young people, says without her �30 weekly allowance she would struggle to meet the basic costs of studying.

She said: “I moved in with my nan when I was 12, after my parents split up. She is on a pension so she cannot afford to pay for me to travel or buy the overalls and books I need for my course. It is just money for bills and food then it is gone.

“I don’t have a job at the moment, I have been looking but it is really hard. I have been looking for the whole year but still haven’t found anything.”

Many students at CNWL and schools across Brent face the same dilemma.

Vicki Fagg, principal at CNWL, has urged heads to campaign against the cuts, and Maggie Rafee, headteacher at Alperton Community School, has also criticised the decision to axe the grant, which she has said will undermine the ability of poorer students to study.

Miss Mills warned the cuts could force drop out rates to spike.

She said: “There are a lot of people my age who need it and will drop out without it.

“It is like tuition fees, the prospect of getting into debt to study is really off putting.”