‘Bright kids losing out over EMA’

By Sally Burton

sally.burton@dearnetoday.co.uk

BRIGHT kids in areas such as Wombwell and the Dearne could lose out as a result of the Government cancelling the education maintenance allowance (EMA), a Barnsley South East Partnership meeting has been warned.

Coun Denise Wilde said she welcomed strategies to improve young people’s wellbeing, but felt measures were needed locally to help replace the EMA, that has given weekly payments of £10 to £30 to 16 to 18-year olds who needed it to stay in education.

She said: “This cancellation will really affect people. We live in an area where the majority of families are not well off and need support”.

Gerry Foster-Wilson of the Wellbeing, Development and Family Support Strategy said subsidies for disadvantaged students are to be introduced into school budgets.

But Darfield Coun Ron Fisher questioned whether this would be enough.

He said: “Wombwell and Darfield schools are 10 per cent behind the average figures for Barnsley schools at all key stages, and that’s a poor second to other authorities.

“What power does this Partnership have to look at programmes to life standards in schools? Unless we start to address difficulties we are not doing a service to our youngsters.”

Ms Foster-Wilson said early intervention with children and families afforded kids better life chances, with communication and oracy being key features.

Darfield Coun Pauline Markham said governors have spoken to Foulstone School pupils, and found that “brighter kids feel they are being punished as there is more concentration on pupils with learning difficulties”.

She added: “No-one has really talked to the kids themselves. We can’t afford to lose these gifted children”.

The quality of teaching has been shown to be rising at Foulstone, she added, but achievement has not, and children who want to achieve must be encouraged.

Both Coun Wilde and Coun Margaret Morgan voiced concern about dental hygiene and its effect on pupils’ wellbeing.

Mrs Morgan said poor dental health could inhibit speech development, and Mrs Wilde felt teeth braces could be fitted at younger ages than the norm, at 11.