The education select committee’s report on participation in 16-19 education is heavily critical of both Michael Gove’s education policy (particularly the decision to scrap EMA) and the way in which his policies have been executed. And for good reason. Gove has continued to force his way through the Further Education sector like a battering ram, with little thought for those who will have their access to education damaged or even destroyed by his actions.
This report says in black and white what we all already knew. The only person in favour of scrapping EMA was Michael Gove. Both student and teaching Unions said it was the wrong thing to do (but that is hardly surprising). What is more concerning, is that both the IFS and OECD warned Mr Gove that this was entirely the wrong decision to make, even suggesting to him in April 2011 that he reinstate EMA to avoid damage to the UK economy. And if that wasn’t enough, even the author of the now infamous “deadweight” research has distanced himself from the decision, telling the select committee that the research was not intended to be used for this purpose and had been misinterpreted by the government. On top of this, the report has uncovered that less than half of respondents to the survey were even in receipt of EMA, and that the sample came mainly from school sixth forms in leafy suburbia, hardly the typical face of Further Education in the UK. It appears that Gove is on a one man crusade on this one.
This report says in black and white what we all already knew. The only person in favour of scrapping EMA was Michael Gove. “
And then we move on to the way in which the abolition has been handled. The select committee are very concerned about the way in which Gove has glossed over all most all the advice he has been provided with to implement his own (economically destructive) ideological policy. In fact they say they “would have welcomed a more measured and public analysis by the Government before it took the decision to abolish the EMA”. There were opportunities coming from every angle to improve the Education Maintenance Allowance system. To pick up your ball and run away with it is no way to conduct public policy Mr Gove.
But the report goes further. It suggests that young people should be entitled to free transport, particularly when the training and participation age goes up. And despite Michael Gove’s insistence that refectories in Further Education Colleges are mythical, it proposes that any free school meals eligibility in school sixth forms should be translated to FEIs too!
Overall, the report is a solid endorsement of the policies of NUS and opinions of students up and down the country. Of course it would be naïve to expect a full U-turn on EMA – the Department for Education is likely to be dizzy by now. But NUS will continue to demand the immediate reinstatement of the Education Maintenance Allowance, a call that has only been amplified by the findings of the Education Select Committee.
We know that Michael Gove is used to very public slip ups, but I think he comes out of this the most red-faced of all.
Toni Pearce is Vice President of Further Education at the NUS