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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas