Students to lobby for 'fairer deal'
Students campaigning against "savage cuts" to their financial support are to hold a day of action in Northern Ireland next month, it has been revealed.
They will lobby Stormont assembly members on November 21 to protect the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the National Union of Students said.
The EMA is designed to encourage teenagers to stay in education and the Government is consulting on whether to scrap some of the payments amid doubts over its impact.
NUS-USI president Adrianne Peltz said any reduction could prove devastating.
"If people cannot afford to continue their studies they will be forced to leave to take up employment without completing the qualification and their chances of reaching their potential will have been severely damaged," she said.
"Many young people who would have, might never commence study in the first place if these cuts are implemented."
EMA provides between £10 and £30 a week for tens of thousands of students and is the difference between many being able to study and having to drop out of their course, the union claimed.
Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry said: "I would like to stress that both our departments are committed to the retention of the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme. It is clear, however, that the funding needs to be better targeted.
"Findings from our joint review highlighted that only one-third of students receiving Education Maintenance Allowance indicated they would not have remained in education had they not received it.
"This indicates that the scheme could be better targeted at those young people from lower income families who otherwise would not have carried on with their post-16 education without the incentive of Education Maintenance Allowance."