Schoolboy given standing ovation from NUT over plea to save grants

Ever since a floppy-haired William Hague took to the stage at the age of 16 to deliver his speech against the re-election of James Callaghan, politics watchers have known to keep an eye out for young rising stars at conferences across Britain. Yesterday, it was the turn of Joe Cotton, a 15-year-old schoolboy, to turn heads as well as the tables as he attacked Mr Hague's party's policy from the podium.

The teenager, a pupil at Calder High School - the oldest comprehensive in Yorkshire - took the stage at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Harrogate to defend the education maintenance allowance. "I'd like to stress how important it is that it is protected," he said. "The Government believes EMA is a wasteful luxury. I don't agree and neither do 10 of the UK's leading economists."

Under the scheme, introduced by Labour, 16 to 18-year-olds can receive up to £30 a week to help them to stay on at school. The Government is axing it for all new applicants from September and saving £400 million by setting up a more limited bursary scheme which will provide assistance to those who have qualified for free school meals.

Ministers had claimed the bursary would be better targeted but the schoolboy showed his political skills with a swipe at the Education Secretary, Michael Gove. "I don't know how nifty Michael Gove thinks he can be with loaves and fishes or even a buss pass and some textbooks but he'd need nothing short of a miracle to replicate the benefits of EMA with that budget," he said.

"I believe that even if one student is unable to continue education based on their family's income and not their ability, then the Government has failed in its responsibility to uphold basic rights to education."

He left the delegates with a parting shot: "Do all you can to help keep education accessible and affordable for my generation - and I promise that I'll go home and start my GCSE revision."

Joe, who was accompanied to the conference by his parents, Paul and Sarah Cotton, said afterwards that he wanted to become a teacher when he left school. Asked if would like a career as a politician, he added: "It was something I'd thought about a little bit before. I suppose so. I don't really know where you'd start.

"I think this is one of the most politically active generations of students for a long time," he said. Joe started public speaking at a young apprentices meeting in Halifax where he had been spotted by Ian Murch, the treasurer of the NUT. The invitation to address the conference then followed.

Meanwhile, two out of three colleges believe student recruitment will be hit by the Government's decision to scrap the allowances, according to a survey published today. The survey - by the NUT and the University and College Union - also revealed that the vast majority (96 per cent) were suffering budget cuts this year, with half saying they would have to reduce the number of courses they offer. Three out four were likely tomake teachers redundant.

POLITICAL AND PRECOCIOUS

William Hague, 1977 The amiable 16-year-old politics student from Yorkshire, addressed the Conservative Party conference on national television. He became president of the Conservative Association and president of the Oxford Union – then later, less successfully, Leader of the Opposition, and now Foreign Secretary.

Helen Searle, 1998 The 15-year-old from Banff and Buchan delighted the Labour Party conference with a speech on Europe. She later said: “If I ever do become Leader of the Labour Party, say in 20 years time, I hope there won't be endless playbacks of me speaking now.”

Jonathan Krohn, 2009 The great hope of America’s right in the Obama generation, Krohn made a speech in 2009 that wowed Republicans. Aged 13, he told the annual meeting of US conservatives in Washington: “I want the American people to understand that conservatism is an ideology of protecting the people and the people's rights.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high