British students protest over high-school grants

19th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

British students prepared to take to the streets once again Wednesday over cuts to the education budget, this time over plans to scrap grants given to high-school pupils from low-income families.

A march and rally were planned in London to coincide with a parliamentary debate on the coalition government's moves to scrap the education maintenance allowance (EMA) as part of its efforts to slash the budget deficit.

The protest comes after a series of violent student demonstrations late last year against plans by Prime Minister David Cameron's government to triple university tuition fees.

The EMA is a weekly payment of between 10 and 30 pounds (36 euros, 48 dollars) given to the poorest 16 to 18-year-olds to help them stay in high school, and about 650,000 pupils receive the grant in England.

The government says the programme, introduced by the former Labour government, is too costly and cites research showing that 90 percent of recipients would still go to school without it.

He has promised to support the remaining 10 percent who need help.

However, a survey by the University and College Union (UCU) found 70 percent of students in the 30 poorest schools would drop out if it were withdrawn.

"They (ministers) clearly have no understanding of how important the EMA is or the difference it makes to so many people's chances of improving themselves," said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.

"Once again, they look horribly out of touch with the majority of people in the country."

In addition to the march and the rally, pupils from two London schools will be holding classes inside the Houses of Parliament to highlight their argument.

Lawmakers will debate Wednesday a motion put by the Labour party urging ministers to rethink their plans. The party has urged members of the Liberal Democrats, who share power with Cameron's Conservatives, to support them.

Before Christmas, London was rocked by three violent protests by students demonstrating against cuts to the higher education budget, which resulted in the tripling of university fees in England from 2012.

London police said they would be handing out leaflets at Wednesday's rally offering "common sense" advice on how to avoid getting caught up in violence.

© 2011 AFP

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