The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is a means-tested allowance in the UK aimed at encouraging 16-year-olds to stay in full-time education, either academic or vocational.

Eligible Students receive a weekly payment of 10, 20 or 30 pounds - depending on household income - providing they attend and make progress on their particular course. There are also £100 bonuses available each term.

The point is that EMA payments are only available to students who have had no gap in their education; they must have come straight from secondary school to sixth-form or FE college. If they decide to go out and get a job instead, they will never be able to claim EMA (although they may be able to apply for an Adult Learning Grant instead.) They must also keep up 100 per-cent attendance, if the want their new-found beer and cigarette money to keep rolling in.

EMA payments are made direct into the student's bank account, two weeks in arrears. Any unauthorised absences will cause the student to lose that week's allowance. Absence, of course, can be authorised for illness, religious holiday, funerals, rail strikes and your general good reasons. Decisions regarding whether EMA payment should be made for a particular week is made by your college or school, but to guidelines set by the government Department for Education and Skills.

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