The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is a conditional cash transfer, the aim of which is to decrease dropout rates in the transition from compulsory to post-compulsory education in the UK. As such, it is targeted at individuals who have completed their GCSEs. If they choose to undertake any academic or vocational course that involves at least 12 hours of guided learning per week, and if their household income is below £30,000 per year, they are eligible for the programme. The payments consist of a weekly allowance (tapered by household income) during term time and termly retention bonuses, both obtainable for up to two years. It has been on offer nationwide since September 2004.
Prior to its national rolling out, it was piloted in ten Local Education Authorities in England in September 1999, with the piloting further extended in September of the following year. This provided the basis for a large-scale evaluation at the Institute, in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP). As the programme was not randomised, the evaluation has been based on a comparison of education enrolment amongst individuals who are eligible for the programme (pilots) and carefully chosen controls, using propensity score matching. The evaluation, now in its closing stages, has pointed to the subsidy having increased participation in post-compulsory education, particularly amongst males. The increase in post-compulsory stay-on rates is in the region of 6 percentage points.