Students across Sheffield are set to join a nationwide strike tomorrow to call for more to be done to reduce climate change.
Thousands of the more than eight million pupils across the UK are expected to walk out of lessons to show their collective concern about the threat of escalating climate change.
The move has left many school leaders wrestling with their conscience as they find themselves caught between their dual roles as teachers ensuring pupils stay in school and that of educators supporting youngsters’ interest in world affairs.
It is hard to quantify how many pupils will be taking part in the walk out on Friday afternoon, but more than 200 pupils have expressed an interest on Facebook in attending a rally outside the Town Hall.
There are some youngsters at Silverdale School in Millhouses believed to be planning a walk out.
One pupil said she is “not usually one to break any school rules” but is “extremely passionate about our home and planet because it is clear to me and my fellow students that we are very quickly losing our chance to save the planet.”
Her mum accepted parents have been put in a difficult position, but ultimately she supported the day of action and was “proud to see young people becoming engaged” with important world affairs.
A number of schools have sent out letters to parents explaining their position.
Linda Gooden, headteacher at King Edward VII School in Broomhill, said the school recognises the importance’ of the issue and pupils have taken part in a number of projects around climate change.
Bu she added it is ‘essential that all students attend school as normal’ and any absence related to the climate change action ‘will be recorded as unauthorised.’
Students at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fulwood are allowed to attend the day of action provided they have written consent from their parents.
The school will also only grant consent for a leave of absence if they and the parents are confident are a number of factors, such as safety of the child, will be met.
Headteacher Steve Davies said the school wants its pupils to ‘be proactive in shaping their world’ and has over the years ‘organised many opportunities for students to engage in political debate and campaigns.’
But he added the school must also ‘balance this’ with its responsibility to ensure students are safe and in school.
The day of action follows the example of Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who began protesting outside her country’s parliament in August. Her solo effort has since grown and spread to countries across Europe.
The organisers of the ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ event have written form letters for the parents of children wanting to take part.
The Department for Education’s guidance says unauthorised absences must be recorded as part of safeguarding, but gives room for headteachers to approve absences in “exceptional circumstances.”