Findings of the second year evaluation of educational maintenance allowances - which are being piloted in deprived areas - were highly encouraging, education minister Margaret Hodge told MPs.
Independent evaluation of the various schemes aimed at helping children from poor families stay on in education beyond the age of 16 has been taking place since 1999. Further evidence from the second year published this week showed that EMAs had produced large increases in numbers staying on, not only in the first year of post-compulsory education but into their second year as well.
'In particular, there have been increases in the number of young men, which we are pleased about; people in urban areas, which is also good news, and those who are eligible for the full maintenance allowance, which suggests those who come from the poorest backgrounds and is also good news', added Mrs Hodge.
Evidence on attainment was emerging, showing qualifications achieved was up. There was also an increase in the number of young men choosing to go into higher education. However, the minister cautioned:'We must wait for good, solid data before we can draw permanent conclusions'.
Jeff Ennis, Labour MP for Barnsley East and Mexborough, said there was no doubt the EMA pilots in Barnsley and Doncaster had been an outstanding success. He asked whether the DfES was monitoring the types of courses taken by EMA and the split between academic and vocational courses.
Mrs Hodge said that data was being monitored. While the department was developing its proposals to try to raise the status of vocational qualifications, the government would ensure that opportunities were available to people from all backgrounds wishing to pursue all sorts of options for later careers.
Hansard 4 July 2002: Column 380-381