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.


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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own