Education Maintenance Allowance explained

The Money to Learn Education Maintenance Allowance, known as EMA, is a means-tested allowance of £30 a week which is paid fortnightly into your bank account. This information refers to applications for academic year 2019 to 2020.

Education Maintenance Allowance

If you decide to stay on at school or go to a further education college in Northern Ireland, you may be able to get the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). It is available for both academic and vocational courses.

EMA is a weekly award of £30 which is paid fortnightly to students who meet the eligibility criteria below.

It is intended to help cover the day-to-day costs that you have to meet when you stay on at school or college like travel costs, books and equipment for your course.

Bonus payments

As well as the EMA payments, two bonus payments of £100 may be paid to you if you achieve the goals and objectives that are set down for you by your school/college as part of the Learning Agreement Part 2. The first bonus payment is made to students in January and the second bonus payment is made in June.

Courses eligible for EMA

You have to be enrolled on courses of further education up to and including Level 3, but not including higher education. The main types are:

  • GCSEs
  • A levels
  • NVQ/SVQ level 1, 2 or 3
  • Pre U
  • BTEC National Diploma, National Certificate and First Diploma
  • Baccalaureate
  • SCE higher grade or similar

Any course that attracts a training allowance will not be covered by the Money to Learn EMA. This includes Further Education (FE) Awards or DAERA Bursaries.

Who is entitled to EMA

You can get an EMA if you're aged 16, 17, 18 or 19 years on or between 2 July 2018 and 1 July 2019 and all of the following:

  • your household income is £20,500 or less for households with one dependent child or £22,500 or less for households with more than one dependent child
  • you are full time at school or doing a minimum of 15 guided hours per week at college, studying an eligible course and attending all classes
  • you meet the nationality and residency rules set out in the EMA scheme
  • you have not already received the maximum allowance for EMA, which is 117 positive or negative weekly attendance confirmations over the total length of your course

You may be entitled to receive EMA for a maximum of three years, as long as the household income does not rise above the income threshold which applies to your household. The EMA is available over a four-year period for those young people who may need additional time in further education to achieve their full potential.

Receipt of EMA will not affect any other benefits being received in the household.

EMA queries

If you have any queries about your EMA application, contact the Education Maintenance Allowance helpline.


Qualifying for EMA

If you want to appeal a decision about your eligibility for the EMA Scheme, you should contact the EMA Customer Services Team in the first instance.

Further appeals should be sent in writing, with all supporting evidence, to the Department for the Economy’s Head of Student Support.

Attendance and Bonus Payments

If your school/college has decided that you’re not entitled to receive a weekly or bonus payment, you should appeal directly to the school or college in the first instance. Further appeals should be directed to the EMA Customer Services Team.

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