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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Nursery Nurse

£6 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Newcastle: Level 3 Nursery Nurse - Newcas...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on