Select Committee on Education and Skills Sixth Report


Learner support funds

  51. Learner support funds (LSFs) are the main source of financial support to help further education students with the additional costs involved in studying. LSFs can be used by students to help with the costs associated with further study. These costs could include transport, books and equipment, childcare provision and residential charges. The Government's target groups for Learner Support Funds include students with disabilities and/or learning difficulties, those leaving care, probationers and those students reaching 19 and losing benefits during their courses.

52. Students between 16 and 18 years are not normally liable to pay fees for courses in maintained schools or colleges. Most further education students aged 19 are required to pay a contribution towards their fees, although students undertaking the Full­Time Education/ Training option under the New Deal programmes and those in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance and their dependents are not liable for fees. Further exceptions are made for basic adult education, English as a second language and in other circumstances at the discretion of individual colleges. Students may apply for help with the payment of fees through Access or Hardship Funds administered by colleges. Students over 18 may apply for a Career Development Loans and can help with travel costs and course fees. Career Development Loans are deferred repayment bank loans and repayable on completion of a student's course.[56]

Education Maintenance Allowances

  53. For students in immediate post-compulsory education, the most recent and significant change has been introduced (on a pilot basis) of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). This represents the first attempt to provide a comprehensive system of financial support for 16 to19 year olds.[57]

Financial barriers

  54. The Association of Colleges commented, in written evidence, that effective student support for further education has significant implications for both higher education and skills-based learning:

55. We support the growth and development of a society that values lifelong learning and encourages participation in learning by all, including those in the Government's target group. While the development of an effective student support strategy will be an important contribution to this objective, there is much else to be done, including raising aspirations and achievement in schools and developing parity of esteem for vocational, professional and academic learning.

56. We believe that in the context of the Government's participation target for higher education, and the evident under-representation of students from low income homes, it is essential that a seamless system of financial support should be introduced that will encourage poor or otherwise disadvantaged students to continue their studies through further education and into higher education.

56   Money to Learn: Financial help for Adults in Further Education and Training and Further Education Funding Support, DfES website Back

57   Several reports have been published by the DfES on the evaluation of EMAs; for example, Education Maintenance Allowance: The First Two Years A Quantitative Evaluation by authors from the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, DfES Research Report 352, June 2002 Back

58   Ev 127 paragraph 3 Back

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