PARENTS are urging teachers in the district to support pupils who skip class to join global ‘Youth for Climate’ strikes.
Parents for Future Warwickshire has written to schools heads across the county calling on them to respond positively and not punish pupils who take part in the demonstrations during school time to demand action against a ‘climate emergency’.
The movement has received support in Warwickshire from a growing number of parents, many of who have joined their children at the strikes.
Pupils from some schools have reportedly received detention for leaving school premises, and others banned from attending at all.
The letter read: “We recognise that the school strikes are a controversial action and understand the arguments against them. We appreciate that there are serious issues regarding safeguarding that must be taken into consideration. However, we also believe that young people need to be supported to voice their fear and anger. We believe that taking part in climate demonstrations has positive impacts for the mental health of teenagers, and that adults have a responsibility to support them.
“We are writing to ask that you carefully consider your response to children in your school community wishing to take part in these demonstrations. We feel it sends an unhelpful message to punish them for making this choice.”
Following the first strike in February, the Observer was contacted by parents concerned Stratford School pupils were anxious about being punished.
The school responded: “As a school we fully support, teach and advocate the importance of students taking an active role in society and it is pleasing to know that our students are willing to stand up for what they believe in.
“However, we have a process to request absence from school and to ensure students are safe, therefore students who did not adhere to this process before attending the protest will be required to attend a catch up session for the work that they missed.”
But when contacted about the letter, a spokeswoman said it had not been received.
Stratford Girl’s Grammar School told the Observer it supported pupils in February during the first of the strikes held in Stratford.
A spokeswoman said: “Stratford Girls’ Grammar students have a strong tradition of standing up for what they believe in. We were therefore pleased to support our students who chose, in February, to take part in the international day of demonstration against climate change, and proud that they also chose to work with the school to minimise the impact on their learning.
“Whilst there is no doubt that missing lessons can and does have a bearing on the outcomes of pupils, in this instance we felt it really important that they have the freedom to decide how they felt about this important issue, and as long as they had parental consent, we fully supported their choice on that day.
“We will continue to work with our students and their families to ensure that their education and therefore their opportunities are not negatively impacted, whilst retaining their individual right to be heard. Education is vital in order that we can better equip our young people for their futures and, as part of that, the future of our planet.”
Warwickshire National Education Union (NUT) division secretary Emma Mort said members supported the strikes and opposed punishments such as detentions and exclusions – but added some schools could be faced with a dilemma.
“Maybe schools feel like they are compromised, as they can’t be seen to be condoning students not being in schools, as much as they might want to support the students’ aims.”
NEU has suggested schools incorporate lessons on climate change into the curriculum.
The youth climate protests were inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who protested outside Swedish parliament during school classes.
Her demands called for MPs to take measures to reduce carbon emissions with thousands of pupils across the world following suit.