Labour would bring back the Educational Maintenance Allowance for England's poorest pupils if voted into power, the party's shadow education secretary has said.
The bursary, which would enable disadvantaged young people to remain at school, would be funded by removing Winter Fuel Payments from the wealthiest pensioners. Tristram Hunt MP made the pledge during an interview with The Mirror, saying: "A bit of rebalancing towards young people wouldn’t go amiss.
"The Labour movement has always believed that education is the key to social mobility."
Hunt also added he wouldn't rule out sending his children to private school, although his son is currently enrolled at a state primary. “As a parent you can never rule out whatever takes place but we are delighted with the education he’s having," he said.
The EMA was introduced by the previous Labour government and gave students with a household income of under £20,817 between £10 and £30 a week for books and transport so they could remain in post-16 education.
The scheme was abolished by education secretary Michael Gove after he decided it was badly targeted, prompting protests and marches across England, with many feeling Gove has yet to offer an adequate replacement. Wales however, still has an EMA scheme in place for its students.
@HPUKStudents cover food and travel expenses.— Gregor Smith (@grgrsmth) October 28, 2013
Children's charity Barnardo's has deemed Gove's EMA alternative "unfair and inadequate" while a report from the government's social mobility tsar Alan Milburn described the abolition of the bursary as "a very bad mistake".
Danielle Lowe, a 19-year-old journalism student at City University, said when her EMA was slashed, her bank account was "crippled" by having to fork out for university open days.
"When the EMA was removed, I was in my second year of college, so they dropped the amount I received from £30 to £20 a week. I was paying for my own travel, lunch and course equipment, which would have been covered if I wasn't needing to pay for university interviews and open days. These were normally £30 a trip minimum and absolutely crippled my bank.
"I struggle to imagine how people in a similar situation get to make a fair university choice when they can't afford such trips."
@HPUKStudents EMA helped me to pay to get to and from my sixth form every day - it was only £10 a week but it made soooo much difference.— Josie Miller (@joezehh) October 28, 2013
James Mills from the Save EMA campaign told The Huffington Post UK the signs were promising.
“Although this is not the first time that the Labour party has hinted that it will bring back the education maintenance allowance, this is the strongest hint yet that the Labour party nationally are seriously planning on reintroducing EMA if elected in 2015.
“It makes good political sense to reinstate EMA as half of Lib Dem voters opposed its abolition, and almost a third of Tory voters did too; and the rise in transport and living costs are hitting low income families the EMA supported.
“It’s also good policy too, as EMA is a tried and tested scheme that has the backing of the IFS, and even the author of the report the government used to justify abolishing it with; as well as, Alan Milburn the Government own social mobility tsar.”
Chris Skidmore, Conservative MP for Kingswood in Somerset, told HuffPost UK: "Labour left us a broken education system and have opposed every one of our reforms to fix it whilst scaring people with their irresponsible, doom-laden predictions."
"Despite being proved wrong, Tristram Hunt's response is to ignore the evidence and throw money at a system that didn't work and gave money to wealthy pupils who didn't need it. This is the same old Labour - not only would this fail some of our most vulnerable pupils, but it would also lead to millions of pounds of more spending, more borrowing and more debt."