Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Education Maintenance Allowance

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was launched across Scotland in August 2004 to provide financial support to young people from low income families. The aim is to help reduce financial barriers that may restrict young people from remaining in post-16 education.

EMAs are payments of £30 per week, normally paid fortnightly in arrears, dependant on your attendance and conduct at your school, college or learning centre.

The guidelines for academic year 2017 to 2018 are as follows:


To be eligible for an EMA you must meet the residency, age, household income and course criteria outlined in the sections below.


To receive EMA support, a young person must have been ordinarily resident in Scotland for three years prior to the start date of their course or the date that they become eligible to apply for EMA.


Your date of birth must fall between 1 March 1998 and 28 February 2002.

For school pupils and college students there are 2 intakes per academic year in line with the two statutory school leaving dates.

  • Autumn intakes take place after the summer holidays, at the start of the academic year. If you were born between 1 March 1998 and 30 September 2001 you may be eligible to receive EMA payments from August 2017.
  • Winter intakes take place after the Christmas holidays. If you were born between 1 October 2001 and 28 February 2002 you may be eligible to receive EMA payments from January 2018.

For young people on Activity Agreements who have reached their statutory school leaving date (such as those at the Connect Project), you should apply at the time you sign your agreement with the Learning Centre as these programmes do not follow the academic calendar.

Household Income

To qualify for EMA your household income must be below a certain threshold depending on the number of dependent children within the household.

The household income thresholds are:

  • Up to £24,421 for households with one dependent child.
  • Up to £26,884 for households with more than one dependent child.

A young person aged 16 or under is classed as a dependent child. Students aged 16-25 who are in further education and being parentally supported will also be classed as a dependent.


For school pupils, you should normally be studying a full-time, non-advanced course of education. This is usually a minimum of 21 guided learning hours per week.

College students should be studying a full-time or part-time, non-advanced course of education. The number of hours for college courses may vary.

Non-advanced courses are those up to National Certificate (NC) level.

For young people at the Connect Project, weekly learning hours may vary depending on your Activity Agreement and your individual circumstances.

Application Process

If you meet all the eligibility criteria, you should complete an application form to apply for EMA. They can be collected from your school, college or learning centre. Alternatively, you can download an application form in PDF format from the ‘Related Downloads’ section of this page.

You must submit a fully completed and signed application form along with all relevant supporting documentation, including:

  • Birth certificate or passport.
  • Proof of household income.

For full details about providing proof of income and what documentation is required, please refer to the EMA guidance document, also available from the ‘Related Downloads’ section of this page.

Please note that your application can take approximately 4-5 weeks to process during busy periods. If you have not heard from us after this time, please contact us to ensure that we have received your application.

Once your application has been processed, you will be issued with a Learning Agreement which must be signed by you and your school, college or learning centre.

When we receive your signed Learning Agreement and confirmation of your attendance, your EMA payments can begin.


Your attendance will be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that you are meeting the targets set out in your Learning Agreement.

Payments will only be issued for weeks where you have maintained 100% attendance. Any absences must be authorised by the educational provider.

Failure to maintain 100% attendance and provide a valid reason for your absences will result in your EMA payments being withheld and may even lead to your payments being stopped if you are persistently late or absent.

Submission Dates

If you are eligible to receive EMA payments from August 2017, you should submit your application by 30 September 2017 in order to have your payments backdated to the start of term.

If you are eligible from January 2018, you should submit your application by 28 February 2018 in order to have your payments backdated to the start of term.

If your application is received after the deadline date, the award can only be made from the week that it is received by Education, Leisure and Housing and cannot be backdated.

The final closing date for applications is 31 March 2018. No applications from schools or Orkney College will be processed after this date.

You must submit a new application each academic year, including all necessary documentation.

Contact Details

If you have any queries, would like further information or need assistance completing your application form, please contact the team at:

Education, Leisure and Housing, Orkney Islands Council, Council Offices, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY.

Telephone: 01856873535 extensions 2416 or 2450.

Email: Education Grants.