Sinn Féin want expansion of Educational Maintenance Allowances for over 16s
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland commenting on the recent introduction of means tested Educational Maintenance Allowances for 16+ second level pupils has called for extension of the scheme.
Mr Hyland said:
"This attempt by the British Government to encourage more pupils to remain in school after the age of 16 is to be welcomed. We all understand and appreciate the value of increasing educational opportunities for our young people. Sinn Fein feels, however, that all students are entitled to benefit from this initiative.
"However this means that from today there will be two groups of sixteen year old pupils in our schools. Those who will satisfy the means tested criteria and are operating under the agreed conditions of a contract with the school and those who will not. The first group will qualify for a weekly allowance plus a bonus of £100 up to three times a year and the second group will get nothing.
"The possibility of getting this bonus will be a great help pupils to reach their full potential. It is a welcome and in some cases a necessary support for teachers. However, many pupils, who also fulfil all the necessary conditions for receiving the bonus, will be disqualified because of an arbitrary means test ceiling.
"Sinn Fein believe that the bonus payments should be available to all post 16 students regardless of their parental income. An excellent and worthwhile attempt to encourage a wider number of students to prolong their academic career is otherwise in danger of creating double standards among our school population. Further thought is required on this and will be seeking an urgent meeting with the direct rule minister to discuss this problem. It is not just students whose parental income is below a certain figure who need support and encouragement to fulfil their full academic potential.
"It is also vital that the grant is available to all over 16 second level students undergoing studies in whatever educational establishment best meets their needs." ENDS