Teachers say pupils should not be punished for joining today' climate change strike

SCOTLAND'S largest teaching union has written to councils across Scotland urging them not to punish pupils who take part in today's climate change strike action.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 19th September 2019, 1:10 pm
Teenage organisers say they have been threatened with arrest if they defy the ban on marching along Princes Street.
Teenage organisers say they have been threatened with arrest if they defy the ban on marching along Princes Street.

Many pupils in Edinburgh and elsewhere are expected to join people around the world in highlighting the dangers of climate change.

The city council has refused permission for a march along Princes Street and teenage organisers say they have been threatened with arrest if they defy the ban - despite the authority declaring a climate emergency and granting pupils one day a year to take action without any punishment.

In a letter sent to all 32 Scottish local authorities, Educational Institute of Scotland general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Whilst the EIS is not encouraging pupils/students to participate in anti-climate change strikes, we recognise that many will do so.

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"We believe their right to do so should be respected and that participants should not be sanctioned or punished as a consequence.

"If we are to encourage our pupils to be confident individuals that effectively contribute to society on global themes including sustainability, we shouldn’t seek to punish them when they campaign for global sustainability.”

The EIS has advised members that they should follow their employer’s advice for dealing with unauthorised absences.

But Mr Flanagan called for a common-sense approach from authorities. He said: “We believe this should be founded on the basic premise that for pupils who are 16 or over, any decision to participate in the strike can be made on an independent basis and then processed in line with the Local Authority’s policy. For those under 16, pupils should be advised that they should seek parental endorsement if they are going to be absent and that parents should inform the school.”

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"However, there needs to be a balance struck and if we allow pupils more than one absence, the issue is that they could be regularly missing school which affects their education.

WATCH: VIDEO: 2000 school pupils attend Edinburgh’s climate change protest at Scottish Parliament“We have agreed pupils can take one authorised absence in the academic year for those who wish to take part in climate change protests as long as there is advance written parental consent. We are also encouraging schools to support pupils in any projects which helps educate them in school about climate change.”

Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland said adults should listen to young people’s concerns about climate change and try to understand why they are so worried about the future.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said: “Climate change will change the lives of children growing up today and they will experience profoundly the impact in decades to come.

“It now casts a long shadow over their lives and they have responded to the inspiring example of the Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and want to be heard.

“We are mindful of the many arguments for and against schoolchildren ‘striking’ and appreciate the strong feelings this evokes.

“Rather than taking a stand for or against climate strikes, we urge churches and congregations to listen to children in their communities.

“Churches can provide a safe space in which to listen to their concerns and aspirations. By listening we can learn and understand better and this will in turn will help us respond more effectively to the climate emergency.”