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Education Maint. Allowance Grants for FE (now closed in England)

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UPDATE: These grants are no longer available in England.

There's potentially thousands of pounds in free cash available to 16 to 19 year olds who stay on at college or sixth form, thanks to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

So whether youíre from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, depending on your parents income, check to see how much dosh you could grab.

Who can get it?

EMAís designed to entice and encourage school leavers who previously didnít want, or couldnít afford, to carry on studying past the compulsory education level. As itís based largely on parental income, thousands of students are eligible for the cash boost.

You need to satisfy several criteria to get EMA:

  • Be aged between 16 and 18

    Only those aged 16, 17 and 18 can apply (though you'll still get it when you turn 19), for up to a maximum of three years' worth of cash. So, unfortunately, if youíve done well at school and managed to skip a year, thus enter further education before 16, you wonít be eligible.

    You can claim at any point in the school year, but you'll only receive backdated payments if you apply within 28 days of the course's start date or by the end of September, depending on where in the country you are.

  • Your parents must earn under the income limits

    EMA eligibility is based on the total tax year income of both parents you live with (including step parents), or sole income if you live with just one. The good news is any benefits you receive or cash from a part time job arenít included in the assessment... hoorah!

    The top qualifying level of income differs slightly depending on which country within the UK you're from and study in - it is higher in Northern Ireland, for instance. If it's under £20,000 youíll definitely receive at least £30 per week. For full details see the how much section.

    Though if household income has dropped significantly over the last year you may be allowed to be 'reassessed' using more recent household income evidence. This is available for students in Northern Ireland and Wales.

  • It applies to both academic and vocational subjects/courses

    AS/A2 Levels and Highers, diplomas and even GCSE resits: they all qualify. They can be based in any sixth form, college or other further education institution.

  • Thereís a minimum weekly classroom attendance

    Depending on where you study, thereís a minimum number of hours you must be in class or at a placement each week to qualify for the EMA. In Wales the minimum is 12, in Northern Ireland itís 15 and in Scotland itís a diligent 21.

  • You must stick to your studies and attend regularly

    You have to be committed to your studies, have a good attendance record and achieve the specific goals agreed between you and your college, otherwise youíll forgo payments, which canít be recouped. Your efforts will be monitored by your school or college.


How much will you get?

Those studying in Scotland get their EMAís paid weekly, whereas in Wales and Northern Ireland itís fortnightly. It's credited straight into your bank, so youíll need to open a bank or Savings Account, if you havenít already done so.

In Scotland and Wales the amount is a fixed £30. In Northern Ireland depending on your parental income you could get one of three set weekly payments; £30, £20, £10. If household income exceeds the upper threshold, you won't we eligible for any of the cash.

How Much Can You Get?
Household Income
EMA Entitlement/Week England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
Up to £20,817
Up to £20,351
Up to £22,930
£22,931 - £28,125
£28,126 - £33,950
Note: In Wales and Scotland the threshold rises to £23,077 and £22,403 respectively if families have more than one child in full time education.

How to apply

In Wales and Northern Ireland you can apply:

  • directly via your college or sixth form

  • by calling the EMA Helplines. Wales' number is 0845 602 8845 and it's 0845 601 7646 in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland you can apply via your college or Local Education Authority but not by phone.

Each applicant must provide proof of their parentsí household income, which can be done using a Tax Credit Award Notice or by a P60, plus youíll need to give your bank details.

Other sources of funding

If you aren't eligible for EMA, or are getting it but still struggling financially, you may be entitled to money from elsewhere.

  • The Discretionary Learner Support Fund system provides one-off payments to help fund travel or the purchase of equipment and books, and can be applied for through your college or sixth form.

  • The website is crammed with everything you need to know about sources of financial help for students and struggling families.

  • Helpful information about a wide range of student related issues, from education rights to teenage pregnancy, is available from Citizens Advice.

  • Also ensure you do the 5-Min Benefit Check-Up to make sure your familyís receiving all the allowances it's entitled to, and read the Grant Grabbing guide to see if youíre eligible for any extra cash on top.

    Plus check if there are ways to Boost Your Income and bring in a little extra cash.

Join in the Forum Discussion:
Education Maint. Allowance
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