Teachers warned not to let children walk out on 'climate strike'

Hayley Dixon
Students striking against climate change in March - Getty Images Europe

Teachers have been warned that they should not let children walk out on 'climate strike' ahead of a weekend chaos from planned action.

Thousands of young people are expected to leave lessons on Friday in action that is being backed by unions, charities, businesses and politicians.

For the first time the students will be joined by workers after the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) called for “adults, workers, community groups, trade unionists, nurses, teachers, steel workers, car manufacturers, waiters and everyone else in between to join us.”

Staff at galleries and museums, local Government workers, university lecturers, postal workers and architects are all expected to join the walk out.

The action has also been backed by the Fire Brigades Union whilst the head of one of Britain’s biggest NHS Trusts has said that she would support staff taking action.

Many workers unable to strike because of strict rules are expected to join the protest on their days off or during their lunch breaks.

But the Department for Education has echoed teachers unions in warning that whilst they "encourage constructive engagement" it shouldn't "come at the expense of our children’s education or excessive disruption". 

Teachers have been told that if they encourage students to attend or fail to record absences they put themselves at risk of legal or disciplinary action. 

The action has been inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg Credit: Getty

The UKSCN says more than 200 events are taking place across the UK, with the main event being held at Millbank, in Westminster.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is due to address a crowd outside Parliament and praised the children going on strike, saying they "are leading the way and I'll be proud to join them tomorrow.”

The strikes will mark the start of what is set to be a weekend of chaos.

On Saturday Extinction Rebellion plan to blockade the Port of Dover for four hours. The "No Food on a Dying Planet" action at the Kent port is expected to be mirrored across the Channel by other Extinction Rebellion groups.

On Sunday, as the Labour Party conference gets underway in Brighton, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that more than 20km of road in central London will be shut along with a further 340 streets which will be turned into “play areas”.

But the move has been criticised as a “PR stunt” which will cost £1million which could have been invested in “proper measures to improve air quality”.

Keith Prince, GLA Conservative Transport Spokesman and member of the London Assembly, added: "Once again the Mayor has demonstrated that he is more interested in indulging in shameless virtue signalling instead of properly getting to grips with the big issues facing London."

Greg Hands, the MP for Chelsea and Fulham, said that whilst declining car use in London was a positive thing randomly closing hundreds of roads was just a “stunt designed to irritate not provide lasting solutions”.

School children taking part in Climate Change protests in Westminster in March

The climate strike is part of a global call for action on climate change with more than 3,400 events planned in 120 countries today, making it the largest action yet.

 The TUC congress last week voted to support it with a "workday campaign action”, with workers encouraged to take 30 minutes of action during the day. Fire alarms are expected to be set off around the country at 1pm.

Some healthcare workers were also organising to join the strikers in their spare time. 

It comes after Dame Jackie Daniel, the Chief Executive of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that she would support her nurses in taking action.

In response to a question from a healthcare worker at an NHS conference earlier this month, Dame Jackie stressed the importance of keeping hospitals running but added: “I think I'd want to support staff to absolutely very openly and clearly do their bit.  And so I think they should be should be supported.  I think we have to get active about it.”

However, teachers unions have taken a harder line as some teachers took to social media to discuss how to take their students to the protests without getting them into trouble for truancy.

Fearghal O'Nuallain, a geography teacher from London, asked for suggestions on how to “frame” taking students to the climate strike, while keeping in line with the school's attendance policy. 

Graham Frost, a headteacher from Cumbria, told the Telegraph he is taking a group of 14 eight to 11 years to the Carlisle Global Climate Strike, where they will deliver speeches to the crowd about plastic pollution and deforestation.

But the NASUWT told teachers that they have “a duty of care to their pupils” adding: “Teachers cannot condone and encourage such behaviour and may be held responsible should they allow children and young people to do so.”