Monday, 6 December 2010

Suzanne Moore in the Guardian

Another odd article in the Guardian, this time by Suzanne Moore.

She makes this rather startling statement:
Little has been said about EMA, a means-tested benefit
Little has been said about it? Does Moore read any of the papers she writes for? Type 'educational maintenance allowance' into Google news and see what you get  Look at the Guardian archive on it. And it's not just the left - look at the Telegraph archive on it.  EMA has got its own website and its own campaign day next week. I mean clearly, relatively, less has been said about EMA than tuition fees, but there are probably medium sized pop bands who wouldn't mind EMA style coverage. But let's not let facts get in the way of things, apparently the reason for this shocking absence of coverage is:
possibly because those who live on less than £20,000 a year are not in the middle-class bubble. 
Actually, EMA goes to kids from families on less than £30,000 a year, which is why 42% of kids get it. But in fact, yawn yawn, it's entirely the opposite. The whole reason why such misrepresentation of EMA is allowed to continue is because very few of the people writing about it in the media have ever been inside a school.  They might have met someone who was on EMA, or they might have got a letter from one once, or they might even have been on EMA, in the case of Bridget Phillipson, but they have never dealt with cohort after cohort of kids on EMA. They have therefore never seen the fact that 90% of those kids would still be there without it. They haven't seen the negative effects it has on students, making them see learning as being worthless without cash.  They haven't seen the kids who don't want to be in school who stay on just to get the money and cause lots of people a lot of time and grief. They haven't seen the bureaucracy associated with it.  And because they don't really know anything about how it works, they haven't bothered to look closely at the research evidence which backs most of this up. So these people are then capable of making such astounding statements as:
To remove this in effect prohibits a whole sector of society even getting the qualifications they need to get university.
EMA has only existed this decade.  We all know that before it existed, poor kids still stayed on in the sixth form.  I guess it is understandable, if still frustrating, that 20 somethings make statements like this, lacking in all historical perspective. But Suzanne Moore was a sentient adult before 2000. She probably personally knows people who went through sixth form before EMA existed - or maybe she doesn't, and maybe she's the one in the middle class bubble. In which case - I am here to tell you, from my own experience and from all the stats I have read on this - poor people stayed on at school before EMA existed. Fact.

And look at the use of that word 'prohibits' - how absurd. To prohibit something is to pass a law that bans it.  No one is 'prohibiting' a 'whole sector of society' from further ed.  In fact, there's a reasonable case for arguing that the main thing that stops kids carrying on in further ed isn't lack of money, but lack of prior educational achievement, which is why EMA has barely dented the NEET rate. In which case, redirecting EMA to the Pupil Premium will do a lot more to get that 'whole sector of society' into college.

But as if all that wasn't enough, we then get this.
The students at least know their figures
No, no they don't - and neither does Suzanne Moore.

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