In Brief

Why schoolchildren across the UK are striking today

Thousands of pupils are walking out of classrooms in protest against government inaction over climate change

Schoolchildren across the UK are refusing to attend classes today as part of a global youth action over climate change.

An estimated 70,000 children are going on strike in countries across the world, with around 50 “Youth Strike 4 Climate” protests planned in Britain alone, reports Sky News.

Channel 4 News says the coordinated action “could become the biggest protest by young people since the student demonstrations against tuition fees, nine years ago”.

The movement was inspired in part by Swedish schoolgirl and activist Greta Thunberg, who has protested outside Sweden’s parliament every Friday since August, to urge leaders to tackle climate change.  

A message posted on the Youth Strike 4 Climate group’s Facebook says: “The world is finally waking up. Millions of young people are realising it’s now or never and are looking to take direct action on the climate action.”

The group is inviting students in London to “come down to Parliament Square” and “tell the Government you’re prepared to break the rules to tackle climate change”.

Department for Education guidelines allow headteachers discretion in approving unauthorised absences in “exceptional circumstances”, which has left many school leaders “having to wrestle with their consciences” over whether to sanction the walkouts, says The Guardian.

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran told the newspaper that she would be joining a rally in Oxford.

“As a former teacher, I absolutely understand the frustrations that teachers and schools may have with these strikes,” Moran said.

“However, I would describe this as a teachable moment. I hope schools, colleges and universities see this in the positive light it is meant, and equally hope those students act sensibly with making sure adults know where they are and making up the missed work.”

But Education Secretary Damian Hinds has expressed concern about the mass walkouts.

Hinds said: “I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about.

“But let me be clear, missing class won’t do a thing to help the environment - all they will do is create extra work for teachers.”

Hinds also insisted that the Government is taking “lots of action to combat climate change”, adding that ”£2.5bn is being invested through the Industrial Strategy to support low-carbon innovation in the UK”.

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